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PAPER SESSIONS
Sociology of organizations

Anchoring International Organizations in the Study of Organizational Sociology (session 1 of 2)

From
June 28, 2021 10:45
to
June 28, 2021 12:15
Replay
Organizers

Leah R. Kimber, University of Geneva; Fanny Badache, Graduate Institute

Speakers

Yves Schemeil, Sciences Po, Grenoble-Alpes University

Aurel Niederberger, IHEID; Hayley Umayam, IHEID

Mélanie Albaret, University Clermont Auvergne (UCA)

Hannah Mormann, University of Lucerne

This paper session aims to bring together scholars who adopt a sociological perspective to the study of international organizations (IOs). IOs have historically been studied by jurists and later by political scientists through the prism of theories in international relations (IR). In the past two decade, growing scholarship in IR has shifted the focus to analyzing IOs as actors in IR in their own right. To this end, scholars have not only developed new methodologies, traditionally used by anthropologists and organizational sociologists, but have also embraced sociology as a discipline and more precisely the field of organizational sociology. In this way, IOs have been studied as bureaucracies, as organizations within which various actors compete, which comply and produce norms and values. Nowadays, organizational sociology provides a fascinating basis to study IOs not only from within, but also with respect to their environment in a dynamic perspective.

A Trivial Inventory of Great Discoveries: How Global Public Institutions impact organizational sociology 

Yves Schemeil, Sciences Po, Grenoble-Alpes University

To become more autonomous and not being stuck in intractable negotiations, World Public Organizations (WPO: those with member States, like ITU; and those to which States outsource the implementation of the public interest, like ICANN) must invent new institutional designs and new organizational tools. They enrich Management Studies with new concepts such as “multistakeholderism”, “friends of the chair”, and “joint statement initiatives”. Reforming their modes of governance put consulting and auditing cabinets priorities upside down: “resilience” now prevails over “performance”. Instead of importing from the private sector the metrics of instant “efficiency”, they set standards of long lasting “effectiveness”. They use collaboration tools rather than fight competitors. They opt for “strategic” (not “rational”) management, “transformational” (and not “transactional”) leadership. They privilege “boundary spanners” rather than seeking for the loyalty of “public service motivated” staff members. Overall, then, they drop out of the “NPM” mantra and rely increasingly on a “post NPM” now taught in the best Business Schools where research spots “slack”, “ambidexterity”, “hybridism”, and “coopetition”. These practical adjustments to managerial standards impact in turn NGOs as well as for profit agents, whose degree of “publicness” increases with the multiplication of commitments to “corporate social, environmental and humanitarian responsibility”. This incites them all to be concerned for a fair ‘global ethics’. This learning by doing process is at the roots of promising benchmarks, which invalidates constructivist research on “ever-expanding bureaucracies” as well as their opposite, realist and neo-realist assumptions about “ancillary organizations” fully controlled by States. However, this managerial turn does not evince sociology, quite the contrary. The sociology of norms, in particular, becomes more prominent than O&M studies and the discipline of IR altogether. To evidence these hypotheses several WPO will be studied, among which the understudied World Custom Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime the UN World Tourism Organization, as well as more prominent and reviewed ones like the WHO and the IOM.

Keywords: International organizations, sociology of organizations 

Knowledge production at International Organizations and technological change: How smartphones transformed UN sanctions monitoring in Africa

Aurel Niederberger, IHEID; Hayley Umayam, IHEID

Mobile Information and Communications Technology (ICT) have changed the way International Organizations (IOs) produce knowledge. Changes may be particularly profound in regions that were not covered by stationary ICT before, such as conflict settings in some African regions. In this study, we ask how mobile ICT changed the work of the Panels of Experts (PoEs) that are mandated by the UN Security Council to monitor the implementation of UN sanctions, hypothesizing that denser socio-technological embedding of experts within their “field” strengthened the roles of “interlocutors” (investigation targets and informants, such as politicians, armed groups, civilians, etc.) in the production and processing of reports.  Namely, we analyze if and how this technology has changed the network of “interlocutors” (investigation targets and informants, such as politicians, armed groups, civilians, etc.) involved in the production of reports; how it changed interactions between PoEs and interlocutors; and how it changed content and impact of PoE reports. We use semi-structured interviews with PoE members and a pragmatist framework to analyze social and socio-technological interactions between PoEs and interlocutors in the “field.” Findings will show that the introduction of mobile ICT has enabled new and more effective ways for interlocutors to participate in the production of PoE reports; and that it increased the reception of reports in the “field.” These findings shed light on knowledge production in conflict settings within a changing technological context. The study furthermore moves away from approaches that look at knowledge production in IOs as purely internal processes and focuses on the interfaces where this knowledge production becomes entangled with its social and technological environment.

Keywords: International organizations, sociology of organizations   

Integrating IOs staff’s protests in the study of the contestation of IO

Mélanie Albaret, University Clermont Auvergne (UCA)

Scholars from different social sciences study the contestation of international organizations (IOs) from a variety of perspectives: the exit strategy of states from IOs (Von Borzyskowski and Vabulas, 2018), member states resorting to other modes of contestation, the contestation of IO by a specific kind of actors, be it trade union (Roullaud, 2017) or transnational actors (Tarrow, 2000), on a specific issue such as the sexual orientation and gender identity one (Voss, 2018) or on specific cases such as Haiti (Freedman et Lemay-Hébert, 2015), whistleblowers (Moloney, Bowman and West, 2019), sexual abuse (Freedman, 2018), the responses of IOs to contestation (Heinkelmann-Wild and Jankauskas, 2020), the contestation of international norms (Wiener, 2018). Despite this dynamism, the different analyses do not always dialogue with each other. Moreover, the numerous mobilizations of IO staff (UNOG staff strike in 2018, mobilization of UN consultants and UN interns, to name but a few UN examples) have hardly been the subject of research. Although academics see international organizations as international bureaucracies and no longer only as inter-state institutions, the scientific literature on the contestation of IOs staff remains very fragmented. This paper aims to integrate the analysis of IOs staff’s protests into a transversal reflection on the contestation of IOs. The objective is to construct a comparison of the modes of contestation of IOs regardless of the type of actors involved (States, NGOs, unions, staff). This research is a contribution to the political sociology of international organizations from the analysis of the practices of contestation that the actors. It is at the crossroads of International relations and Organizational Sociology. It will contribute to the conceptual reflection on the notion of contestation through a double movement. It will make it possible to broaden the literature on international relations beyond “contested multilateralism” (Morse and Keohane, 2014) and the contestation of international norms. By integrating the protest practices of UN staff and states, it will also provide an opportunity to enrich the concept of protest developed in the sociology of mobilization and collective action. This paper is based on an ongoing research on a case study: the contestation of and at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The analysis rests on an empirical survey using qualitative methods and fieldwork (observation of HRC sessions, informal discussions with stakeholders at the sessions, semi-directive interviews).

Keywords: International organizations, sociology of organizations   

The outer and inner world of International Organizations. Flowering and dissolution of the International Industrial Relations Institute (IRI)

Hannah Mormann, University of Lucerne

As early as the late 1980s, Gayl D. Ness and Steve R. Brechin called for research on international relations (IR): "(O)rganizations themselves are important units of analysis, precisely because they take on a life and character of their own" (270). The political science sub-discipline has now moved away from a state-centric perspective and organizations are studied as objects of research. The term world organizations (Koch 2012) stands for the attempt to make organizational sociological considerations fruitful for political science research. Recourse is made to the organization-theoretical paradigm of open systems, with which the relationship between organizations and their environment is brought to the fore. This paradigm, which is prominently represented in classical approaches of sociological neo-institutionalism, stands for a fusion of organizational analysis with analyses of social modes of organization. In order not to lose sight of the inner world of organizations, complementary concepts as Neill Fligstein ́s idea on social skills (Fligstein 2001; Fligstein & McAdam 2012) are offered with which dynamics between members and their competing goals and interests can be examined.he case of the International Industrial Relations Institute (IRI) is used to illustrate such an approach. Groups from various social fields have contributed to the establishment and expansion of the IRI (1925-1948). These included in particular activists from the women's reform movement and female social researchers, female factory inspectors working for the state, and women employed in industry in so called welfare departments. These women's groups dominated in the early days of the IRI. All these women were primarily concerned with improving the working conditions of female workers in industry and were closely linked to the women's movement. They played a key role in the development of state interventions in the interest of female workers. The women from the welfare departments of industrial enterprises with job titles like matron, social secretary, social worker or factory nurse organized themselves in the IRI to form a coalition outside the factory walls to protect working women from measures to increase profits. The IRI grew in the course of a few years from an initial 20 – almost exclusively female – members to an institute with over 300 members. The case of the IRI provides insights into the way in which a local initiative for improving work conditions for female workers was transformed into an influential international organization for social progress inspired by the idea of scientific management. The Institute articulated a specific form of scientific management which was different from the mainstream: improving work conditions and resolving conflicts between labor and capital primarily through research and discussion. Mary van Kleeck, a social scientist who held the position of director from 1928 to 1948, as well as other founding members of the IRI demonstrated with her engagement a particular social skill in getting others to cooperate; a (short-lived) coalition between enlightened managers and factory owners, reformers, and social scientists from the US and Europe was build up.

Keywords: International organizations, sociology of organizations