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Institutions in the Role of Central Authority:Fit or Misfit?

Author: Sacha Armbrister
Tutor: LiuDeBin; XianMingZhi
School: Jilin University
Course: International political
Keywords: central authority institutions government legitimacy domestic system international system
CLC: D80
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2013
Downloads: 7
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Since the establishment of I.R theory, scholars have asserted that the world is absent of a central authority. This belief has thus been the building block for most I.R theory. However, post World War Ⅱ the effects and results of central authority presence has been witnessed by the vast changes in state behavior and the international environment. States have become less aggressive and more cooperative and the international system has become less anarchic and more stable, transitions that occurred only after the establishment of institutions. Despite this, scholars continue to have different opinions about the significance of institutions. Realist on one hand purport that institutions are nothing but state puppets, and their ability to mitigate anarchy is over exaggerated. Liberal institutionalist on the other hand argue their ability to constrain and influence state behavior strongly suggest they that they are much more than mere puppets, and further their ability to mitigate anarchy and foster cooperation is grossly underestimated. Liberal institutionalist have gone so far as to submit that institutions, like states, are major actors in the international system... but in which capacity?It was no doubt that after the arrival of institutions the international system and states underwent the kind of shift never deemed possibly by scholars, particularly realists. Since then, I.R. literature has focused on studying the various effects institutions have on states, why they are able to do so and to what degree. Some results argue that institutions function as enforcers, mediators and administrators. What has not been considered however, is that the acceptance of institutional leadership coupled with the many capabilities they possess, and the results they produce resemble the power and role of a central authority. Thus the question is under what conditions do institutions fit the role of central authority? With this question in mind, it was the focus of this research to find out whether institutions do fit the role of central authority and under what conditions.This research utilizes both a rational and institutional theoretical approach. The argument is developed predominantly with qualitative information and also a few quantitative analyses. In this research institution refers to the formal organizations of the world and thus evaluates the cases of The European Economic Community, The European Union, The United Nations, The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. However, in order to do this the definition of central authority had to be clarified. After review of various I.R scholars such as Kenneth Waltz, Hedley Bull, and Robert Art, their understanding of central authority was taken from the way in which it operates in the domestic system. Hence, central authority refers to an entity capable of providing protection, directing behavior, administrating and enforcing rules. Simply put, central authority means government. In the international system however, scholars submit there can be "no government over government" hence the belief that central authority is absent. But this research argues that hierarchic structure is not the affirmation of central authority, instead as Helen Milner points out it is established by the legitimacy of that authority, since without legitimacy there is no government. Therefore, although the international system is not constructed in a hierarchic structure like the domestic system, that does not mean it has no central authority.Based on this analysis, central authority in this research is therefore defined as: an entity that possesses such power and influence that it is able to coordinate state behavior, secure and maintain order via the generation, administration and enforcement of rules. Also taking into consideration the characteristics of states the criteria to constitute a central authority are1. mitigate anarchy,2.posses a level of independence,3.able to enforce,4.legitimate5.pose no threat to state security, and6. centralized-allow equal participation in governance. With this guideline and also after comparing the similarities in the strength, weaknesses and effects of domestic government and institutions, it was established that both powers drastically resembled each other. Together, these factors confirmed that when institutions meet the above criteria, they do indeed fit the role of central authority.The EEC, E.U, and UN were all examined to determine whether this theory transferred to reality. After being evaluated on all six criteria’s it was concluded that these institutions do indeed fit the role of central authority. The EEC and E.U together have been responsible for almost60years of uninterrupted peace, and the unification of European states that were once constantly at war. Further, the EEC which now operates solely under the name of the E.U and has a wider platform, is the only supranational institution in the world giving it both independence from state control and also absolute authority over certain areas of the institutions mandate. The EEC and E.U have also been responsible for influencing the transformation of political regimes and directing economic and social policies. Additionally, the members of the E.U answer to a single head judiciary, whose judgments take precedent over national courts. Furthermore, in the last decade the E.U has successfully achieved establishing a region that shares not just a common judicial system, but also economic trading polices and for some many a single currency.The UN also equally proved this theory that institutions fit the role of central authority. Despite not mirroring the supranational design or having the same success of judicial enforcement like the EEC or E.U, the UN makes up for this in its remarkable ability to provide protection for states and civilians, from both internal and external threats. The UN’s enforcement of security is so strong and certain, that when incidents which jeopardize the peace and security of the international system arise, nations seek and call for the aid of the UN. Furthermore, while other institutions do bring nations together, the UN is the only institution that brings together all nations to truly collaborate on how to approach and solve global issues. Additionally, its centralized structure that allows for such international governance is the pillar of its legitimacy. Its acceptance is also confirmed by the193states that have signed and ratified the UN charter, which directs a certain behavior for states and subjects them to certain punishments for violating the prescribed behavior. Therefore, since the establishment of the UN the international system has avoided a third world war, the great powers have avoided major conflict with each other, international threats are contained and serious conflict occurs in fewer regions. Hence, the UN also fits as a central authority.This does not mean however that all institutions are a central authority, since every institution does not meet the criteria of a central authority. This was the case of the IMF and World Bank which are predominantly managed and financed by the industrialized states. The Great Powers in particular, America and Britain significantly influence the polices of these institution, possess the most voting power and as a result limit the participation of other states and influence economic change through coercive measures. Consequently, many decisions of these institutions are not considered legitimate but nonetheless are followed because of the repercussions for non compliance. Additionally, although the IMF and World Bank possess the same number of membership as the UN, this does not solidify their acceptance since states have no other choice but to participate or else face the high costs or consequences of exclusion.In conclusion, the evidence of this research suggests that the absence of central authority from the international system, is not as accurate as it once seemed. Students of I.R must then reanalyze other concepts and theories that no longer correlate with present outcomes, and formulate contemporary theories that take into consideration the new variables i.e. globalization that have altered state behavior in the21st century. Until then, the contribution of this research is that institutions with their ability to mitigate anarchy, enforce, independence, no threat posture, legitimacy, and centrality, have demonstrated that they are not just major actors, but fit the role of central authority.

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