Organizations As Political Systems Essay Writing

“More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that, is why we have the United Nations.” (Annan: 2001)

During his millennium commencement speech, the Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke about how the challenges of the twenty first century would not be conquered if it weren’t for international organizations. It is widely believed that international organizations should be responsible for the maintenance of international peace and stability, be this economic, social or political, and that they should act in the interest of the international community. According to critics of these institutions, there should be greater transparency, regulation and control within these organizations so that they reflect more than just the interest of the powerful States.

The creation of an international forum for multi-lateral negotiations came about with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in 1889, which is still active today and has membership of 157 national parliaments. The IPU was the predecessor to the League of Nations, created in 1919 after the end of the First World War; this later became the United Nations after the failure of the League to prevent international conflicts. (Thompson and Snidal: 1999: 693) The legacy of the IPU, the League of Nations, and other early international alliances was not the institutions’ effectiveness as an actor, but rather as a forum, for nations to voice their opinions and promote dialogue. This was arguably their greatest achievement, as even after the failure of the League, nation States still felt the need for an institution that would allow them to share their ideas and provide an opportunity to settle disputes peacefully. Thus, emerged the United Nations, which to this day remains the only institution with universal membership. It is the largest of all international organisations, which is why it will be analysed for the purpose of this paper.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the role of an international institution as a stage for States to bring matters to the attention of the international community and how this is a victory in itself for international relations. This assertion will be verified by firstly examining the critiques of international institutions by using international relations theory, namely neo-realism, highlighting its limitations and breaking down its core assumptions. The paper will then follow with an analysis of neoliberal institutionalism and its discourses as an alternative to neorealism, as well as constructivism, and its theory of institutions being a socially constructed concept determined by the sharing of ideas; it will finally conclude with the idea that institutions play a crucial role in the international system.

The neo-realist approach argues that international institutions are and always will be fundamentally ineffective, as they cannot prevent States from being self-interested and engaging in power politics. Scholars such as John Mearsheimer believe that institutions only have marginal power, giving way to an arena of power relations between States, making them a reflection of the distribution of power in the international system. (Mearsheimer: 2004: 13) This is contested in Keohane and Martin’s response, as they develop the theory that “institutions are created simply in response to state interests, and that their character is structured by the prevailing distribution of capabilities.” (Keohane and Martin: 1995: 47) Mearsheimer challenges this by stating that institutions only promote peace by manipulating the actions of Member States. They advocate cooperation in a world that is intrinsically competitive so naturally States will use this pretext to take advantage of others. (Mearsheimer: 1995: 82) To this end, neo-realists assert the irrelevance of international institutions, as they believe it does not alter the self-interested anarchic system of States. This idea that institutions play a non-role in international relations is a reductionist one as the argument that States will not respond to constraints and opportunities given by these institutions is greatly flawed. This can be exemplified by the UN’s regulation on the use of military force, many States are happy to comply with these standards as it reduces the risks and costs of engaging in conflict whilst at the same time working towards disarmament. (Newman: 2007: 143) The establishment of the United Nations was focused on coordinating and aiding States’ efforts to achieve common goals under the founding principles of sovereignty and non-intervention. Thus, the primary purpose of the UN is not to intervene in internal affairs but rather to promote discussions and give States the tools to resolve disputes themselves. The idea was never to instate a ‘world government’, so the institutions of the UN should not be described as such. An example of this is the Earth Summit, where members discussed actions to be taken regarding environmental sustainability and climate change and then world leaders would reconvene in ten-year follow-up meeting to monitor each other’s progress. (Annan: 2000: 55) Classical and neo-realists claim the international system is an anarchic, self-interested, power struggle between States, which is why there is a vast amount of distrust in global institutions such as the UN. But many have affirmed that, “in a world of multiple issues imperfectly linked, in which coalitions are formed transnationally and trans governmentally, the potential role of international institutions is greatly increased.” (Nye and Keohane: 1989: 35) One of the so-called failures of the UN is its inability to prevent conflicts, but in reality the majority of these conflicts arise as a result of deep-rooted ethnic, political, and ideological tensions which cannot even be resolved through bilateral diplomatic efforts, as exemplified in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Western Sahara, and the disputed region of Kashmir. (Cassese: 2005: 337) This reflects unrealistic expectations of the UN as an actor. Thus, the neo-realist critique can be seen from two different angles, that of the liberal institutionalists, affirming that in fact nations do comply to standards imposed by international organizations, and the pragmatic discourse, which concerns itself with the idea of the UN as a stage providing a framework for discussions and multi-lateral agreements.

On the other hand, Neo-liberal institutionalism prides itself on the Kantian version of the international system. While the UN attempts to coordinate the actions of States and harmonize the world community, it becomes increasingly geared towards this ‘utopian’ model, even though it faces innumerous challenges when rallying Member States to follow its general principles and vision. It is also argued that the United Nations has been vital in furthering decolonization, human rights, environmental protection and international law. Neo-liberal institutionalism stresses the importance of the UN’s work with regional organizations, as they become indispensable in the international diplomatic process predicting, “the international community will increasingly direct itself towards combined action of the universal Organization with regional bodies.” (Cassese: 2005: 338) This can be observed in the recent links between the UN and regional organizations such as the Organisation of American States (OAS), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the Arab League, and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is widely regarded by theorists in this field that the failure of neo-realism resides in its ontology of institutions, as they believe it has the capacity to redefine the behaviour of States. This is further discussed in their reasoning to how institutions influence State conduct by both creating strong incentives for cooperation whilst at the same time implementing disincentives, like trade sanctions. Scholars of this theory believe that once cooperation amongst States is institutionalised, States would be reluctant to leave it, in fear of what could happen. (Navari: 2009: 39) This is particularly true for members of the European Union, as once States enter into the formal membership they almost never abandon it. By bridging the gap between States and giving them this forum for debate, institutions help trigger important coalitions, and with its congenial approach to weaker States, aids in their pursuit of linkage strategies. Hence, States feel welcome in what was previously a hostile international environment. (Nye and Keohane: 1989: 36) Reflecting on this, one could easily make a case in favour of institutions, but it seems prudent not to jump into generalisations of the relative successes of the UN system, as a careful empirical analysis of its record is necessary before making sweeping statements. It is also important to determine what constitutes success and failure as we can approach the United Nations system in different ways, either as an international forum or as a ‘global policing force’ and regardless of what approach one may take, they both have their virtues and drawbacks. This is why the neo-liberal institutionalist approach is misleading as it accounts for some of the weaknesses of institutions, but does not include enough critical analysis of its premises and actions, or lack thereof. Thereby, the role of institutions becomes a more ideological and normative one, where they infuse Member States’ policies with their liberal values and principles.

In contrast, conventional constructivism challenges both neo-realism and neo-liberal institutionalism by claiming that anarchy is not inherent in the state system, as affirmed by neo-realists, neither is it inexistent, as affirmed by neo-liberal institutionalists, it is, in truth, what States make of it. It asserts that institutions and structures, within the international system, are mutually constructed concepts by actors that employ social practice to define the ‘international realm.’  The previous theories, neo-realism and neo-liberal institutionalism, take for granted the idea that economic and military power is the primary source of influence in world politics. Constructivist theorists counter this, as they believe discursive power also plays a fundamental role in the understanding of the global political system. (Hopf: 1998: 177) Constructivists deviate from the neorealist assumption that anarchy plays a crucial role in the behaviour of institutions, and alternately create a carefully depicted discourse of the role identity and interest in the shaping of international actors. Thus, now that they have deconstructed this claim, it appears that the behaviour of institutions can no longer be objectively analysed by quantifiable forces, as social interaction now gives different meanings to ideas, actors and objects. For this reason, the theoretical model proves these interactions can affect collective decisions in a global context. (Deitelhoff: 2009: 35) The idea of anarchy and power politics has been essentially reduced, and according to notable constructivist Alexander Wendt, “if today we find ourselves in a self-help world, this is due to process, not structure. There is no ‘logic’ to anarchy apart from the practices that create and instantiate one structure of identities and interests rather than another; structure has no existence or causal powers apart from process.” (Wendt: 1992: 394) Demonstrably, many of the assertions made by the constructivist theory were intended to focus not on the improvements and the successes of international institutions, but rather on the questioning of core assumptions of neo-liberalism and neo-liberal institutionalism, and deviate from their materialistic approaches. They draw attention to the relationship between the structure and the agency, as well as the construction of state and institutional interests.  Thus, the theory holds that the role of international organizations is to uphold their carefully constructed values and ideologies to States, determining their behaviour.

Another interesting factor to note is the portrayal of the Secretary-General (SG) within the United Nations. The SG’s initial role of entrepreneurship and chief of all administrative matters within the organization was a political decision, as nations did not want to transmit the notion of a global governance to the world community. However, it has been extremely debated amongst scholars and internationalists that the changing roles and duties of the ‘head’ of the UN has signified a symbolic change for the international system. This was observed especially during the Kofi Annan years, when the Secretary General’s duties expanded to unforeseeable dimensions, largely opposed by the United States. (Traub: 2007: 197) It is claimed that the Secretary General is the world’s prime example of responsibility without power, which is not always understood. The fact that he has no sovereign rights, duties or resources could signify that he becomes a reflection of the organization itself. The licence granted to the Secretary-General by Member-States is for mediation, rallying of nations, and generating awareness to pressing issues, which can be further extended to many of the acting organs of the organization. The increase in the Secretary-General’s powers is a matter of grave concern among the major power players of the UN, and this essentially shows that States are not, in fact, moving towards a ‘global government’ and that the role of the United Nations as an international institution is to promote dialogue and discussions in a multilateral framework and not to intervene in Sovereign territory. An example of this was in the Secretary-General’s Millennium Report where he ensured States that the Secretariat was fully accountable to them and the founding principles of the United Nations as “an Organization dedicated to the interests of its Member States and of their peoples” would be preserved. (Annan: 2000: 73) In light of this, the role of the United Nations is to serve as a facilitator for cooperative action between Member States and non-state actors.

In conclusion, this paper revealed that the role international organizations should play in world politics is dependent on the theoretical framework and interpretation of what the institutional system entails. For neo-realists, international institutions are and will always be ineffective, as they cannot alter the anarchic structure of the international system, neo-liberal institutionalists argue the opposite as they believe institutions greatly influence State conduct by both creating strong incentives for cooperation whilst at the same time implementing disincentives, as observed in the case of nuclear proliferation; constructivists take a very different approach by questioning the core assumptions of the other theories and drawing attention to the relationship between the structure and the agency, as well as the construction of state and institutional interests. This essay has sought to argue that we should look at the United Nations system objectively as a forum for nations to come together and tackle issues that are of concern to the international community. This was the primary objective of the institution in 1945, which is why forcing it to develop into an impartial effective governing force seems quite naïve and unrealistic. As stated by former Assistant Secretary-General Robert Orr, “as an actor, there is so little we can do, and often the people accusing us are the same ones who prevent us from being able to act.” (Weiss: 2008: 8) For this reason, perhaps instead of focusing on the failures and reform within the UN, we should concentrate on the attributes and virtues that it has as an effective centre for harmonizing discussions and developing common goals for States. Rather than reducing the solution to problems of structural reform and widening participation efforts, we could look at promoting the UN as the prime setting for diplomacy and negotiation, as this has undeniably been its role since the beginning.



  1. 1.Cassese, Antonio. International Law. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  2. 2.Navari, Cornelia. “Liberalism.” In Security Studies: An Introduction, by Paul D. Williams, 29-43. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009.
  3. 3.Newman, Edward. A Crisis of Global Institutions? Multilateralism and international security. New York, NY: Routledge, 2007.
  4. 4.Nye, Joseph S., and Robert O. Keohane. Power and Interdependence. United States of America: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989.
  5. 5.Weiss, Thomas G. What’s Wrong With the United Nations (and How to Fix It). Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008.
  6. 6.Traub, James. “The Secretary-General’s Political Space.” In Secretary or General?, by Simon Chesterman, 185-201. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Journal Articles:

  1. 7.Deitelhoff, Nicole. “The Discursive Process of Legalization: Charting Islands of Persuasion in the ICC Case.” International Organization (Cambridge Journals) 63, no. 1 (2009): 33 – 65.
  2. 8.Hopf, Ted. “The Promise of Constructivism in International Relations Theory.” International Security 23, no. 1 (1998): 171-200.
  3. 9.Keohane, Robert O., and Lisa L. Martin. “The Promise of Institutionalist Theory.” International Security 20, no. 1 (1995): 39-51.
  4. 10.Mearsheimer, John J. “A Realist Reply.” International Security 20, no. 1 (1995): 82-93.
  5. 11.Mearsheimer, John J. “The False Promise of International Institutions.” International Security 19, no. 3 (1994): 5-49.
  6. 12.Wendt, Alexander. “Anarchy is what States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics.” International Organization (Cambridge Journals) 46, no. 2 (1992): 391-425.

Other Resources:

  1. 13.Annan, Kofi. We The Peoples: Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century. Millenium Report of the Secretary-General, United Nations, New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, 2000.
  2. 14.Thompson, Alexander, and Duncan Snidal. International Organizations. Report at the University of Chicago , Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1999.

Written by: Sophie Crockett Written at: Royal Holloway, University of London Written for: Dr. Doerthe Rosenow Date written: November 2011

Organization is an association of employees, who jointly implement a certain program, or reach certain goals, and acting on the basis of certain rules and procedures.
In a narrow sense, the organization is understood as relatively autonomous group of people, focused on achieving certain predetermined goals, the implementation of which requires joint and coordinated action. Many scholars consider organization as a political system in order to describe the relationships and processes within it.
There is a view that organizational politics is self a manipulative behavior of individuals and groups to promote their self interests at the expense of others. It can be presented as the struggle for resources, personal conflicts, competition for power and leadership and tactical influence executed by individuals and groups to attain power, building personal stature, controlling access to information, building coalitions etc. (
In this paper it is necessary to discuss the relationship of politics to leadership, and how leadership depends on understanding the politics of the organization.
Leadership and organizational politics
Organization as a system of governance is one of the key concepts of organization theory, which is related to such concepts as power, leadership, guidance and so on. That is why organizational behavior is compared with political behavior and political system. Within this system runs the entire management process, involving managers at all levels, formal and informal leaders, their followers, etc. And the main attention paid to the heads of organizations, and their leaders, aspiring to continuous improvement, the development of the system as a whole and its individual components.
Organizational politics is closely connected with concept of leadership, while relations between leaders and their followers include commitment, influence and power. Political climate of an organization is impacted by a leader, because of his use of authority, his treatment of employees, his use of power. (
It is necessary to stress the interconnection between leadership, its influence & authority and followers. This connection between leaders and their authority & influence over the followers in many aspects define and set political climate in an organization. (
The next important issue is the fact that it is leadership a key concept when considering organizational behavior, organizational politics in the company. The leader is both the driving force and coordinator, who chooses the direction for the development and operation of the company, and also affects the formation of organizational culture and climate in the company.
The concept of political behavior is closely related to the concept of leadership in the organization and the concept of organizational culture. Leadership and culture are two interrelated concepts. A well-known researcher in organizational culture, E. Shane said: “The leader’s unique talent is the ability to create and manage culture, it is the only leadership that has real importance.” (McShane, 2005)
Organizational culture is a set of dominant stereotypes
values ​​and rules, which finds its expression in typical behaviors, the interaction of members with each
other and with the external environment, as well as in various types of organizational activity.
The organizational culture include:
o set of the typical stereotypes, beliefs, experiences, values, norms and rules, rituals and traditions;
o the observable and unobservable common patterns of behavior and interaction of members with each other, as well as with the external environment;
o technology of production of goods and services;
o any tangible products work, including layout of offices and production facilities, advertising, books, etc.;
o any of the intangible products of social reality (ideas, assessments, ratings, etc.).
Organizational culture is reflected in relations of members of the organization and methods of its interaction with the environment. Organizational culture shapes a certain style of interaction with members of the organization
constantly changing external environment, enabling the organization to survive and / or to develop. Organizational culture is continuously developing and improving, it exists and is transformed under the influence of many factors. The only factor in which can consciously influence the development of an organizational culture that is leadership. Leadership can be primarily seen as a process of improving the organizational culture that allows to develop such elements, which together will ensure the effectiveness of the organization to achieve strategic goals. If among management there is no among such leaders, who would give serious attention to the establishment and development of a specific organizational culture, with its values​​, the organization will inevitably operate inefficiently. (Clement, 1994; Nemetz-Mills)
The power and organizational politics
The main reason for the difficulties in organizational politics is in the presence of factors and people that can not be controlled by power. This situation appears because of the fact that the leader often depends on the people who are not formally subject to him. If the manager or leader can not effectively interact with “uncontrollable” forces, he can not perform his own work, which affects the entire organization.
Also, if the manager has little power to influence, he will not be able to get the resources needed to define and achieve organizational goals with the help of other people. Many people think that the possession of power implies the ability to impose the will regardless of the feelings, desires and abilities of other people. However, nowadays it is widely recognized that the influence and power depends more on the individual and his ability to manage people, as well as on the situation. There is no real absolute power, as no one can affect all people in all situations.
Another important aspect of organizational politics is that the power can belong not only to the head or to the leader in the organization, but also to subordinates, and, accordingly, there is, so-called power of subordinates. And in order to make power in the organization more efficient and make it work to achieve common goals, it is necessary to achieve a harmonious balance of power and authority between subordinate and the leader (or the head).

Leadership, power and organizational changes
Most organizations naturally belong to the type of organizational system, where the mission of management leader is the approval and ensuring the regular implementation of the strategy changes (to continually improve the effectiveness of the organization). The basis for successful change is the idea of ​​their implementation, which is shared by both ordinary employees or representatives of management. However, the easiest, shortest, and therefore effective way to organizational change is the way that initiated by representatives of organization, who have full power to implement ideas to life, and sufficient personal authority to form a camp of supporters of reforms and strengthening the driving forces. This person is the leader, who is the key person is both initiating and implementing organizational changes. (Carter et al., 2007)
Managerial leader has many qualities that encourage him
to implementation of changes. First, the leader by virtue of his position in the organization has information that enable him to have a perspective and a multidimensional vision of the
company and its capabilities, as well as external conditions,
that influence the effectiveness of organizational activities
at the moment and will affect in the future. Secondly, the leadership position in the organization allows to collect and then implement the ideas, born in the minds of employees. Third, the managerial leader has the ability to accumulate innovative ideas outside the organization and transform them into related ideas with increased organizational effectiveness. And, finally, a leader possesses the personal qualities that allow him to convert a new idea in the conviction of the reality of its implementation,
about its importance for the company, since without these
beliefs the idea is not productive. Only the power of spirit and talent of a leader, who knows the organization and its capabilities (technical and human), can transform an abstract idea in reality. (Senior et al. 2006; Carter et al., 2007)
In order to achieve maximum results in the creation of
constructive ideas for the implementation of organizational change, leaders can act in two directions:
a) as the creator of the climate and conditions that will allow to develop belief in the need for change;
b) as an organizer, using his power of status, individual influence and organizational resources to restructure the organization, to solve conflicts between individuals and work units. The effectiveness of the change is associated with the presence of agreement between the leader and organization’s staff on the objectives of reforming. (Nemetz-Mills)
In order to reach agreement on the objectives of the
changes, the leader must decide a number of problems:
1. Define the objectives of changes in concepts and terminology, understanding available from the staff. Defining the purpose must also be easy to remember by members of the organization.
2. Form and develop confidence in the idea and goals change.
3. Develop a common vision of purpose.
4. Develop on this basis, strategies for change. (Senior et al. 2006)
The effectiveness of the changes is associated with the activities of formal leader in the formation of the responsibility for the final result of changes in
all categories of subordinate: Representatives of higher management level, middle management, as well as ordinary employees. The responsible behavior of subordinates to their duties is directly associated with providing them with appropriate freedom of decision-making, but also with use of power.
In this regard it is interesting to consider the view point of Ronald W. Clement. In his article “Culture, leadership, and power: the keys to organizational change” he explores the 3 important concepts of organizations as organizational culture, leadership and power. The author starts the topic on the examples of three large companies, General Motors, IBM, and Sears, which once faced the need of organizational change and failed. Clement R. argues that the most important idea of all for companies like General Motors, IBM, and Sears, is that they all face certain obstacles in the process of organizational changes. That are cultural and behavioral obstacles, which are three key features of organizational life: the firm’s culture, the leadership of the change effort, and the existing network of power. (Clement R., 1994)
In this article Clements R. argues of the importance of organizational culture when dealing with any changes in the organization. The author stresses that management of the organization must take into account organizational culture and work with it, but not try to change or brake it. Only then any changes or transformations in the organization will be successful. (Clement R., 1994)
The second important idea of the author is the role of leadership in the organizational change. Clements argues that leadership plays the most important role in dealing with culture, and also the most critical element in a major organizational change effort. The author stresses that it is very important that top management be involved in leading the change effort, but “top executives can’t lead the effort alone, and senior management team should share the responsibility of creating and articulating the new vision for the organization”. (Clement R., 1994)
At last Clements R. considers the issue of organizational power and organizational politics, which is very important in organizational change efforts, because it is possible to achieve any goals and organizational changes only through influence and the use of power. But both power and politics can be used in a positive way in management of changes in organization. Thus, the author recognizes the fact that leadership and power are key factors in the change process.

February 15, 2015 |Free Essay Sample Papers|Tags: management

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