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Reconstructing an International Organization: A Paradigm Shift in the World Trade Organization

43 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2011 Last revised: 16 Aug 2012

Sungjoon Cho

Chicago Kent College of Law

Date Written: April 26, 2010


This article argues that the old paradigm on international organizations (IOs) (Gesellschaft) characterized by realist political bargain cannot fully capture new social realities around contemporary IOs in which ideational factors, such as ideas, values, culture and norms, have become more salient and influential not only in explaining but also in prescribing state behaviors. In an attempt to address the old paradigm’s blind spots, the article offers a new paradigm informed by constructivism that highlights a reflective, intersubjective communication among IO members and consequent norm-building process. Under this new paradigm, one can understand an IO as a “community” (Gemeinschaft), not a mere contractual instrument of its contracting parties. The article applies the new paradigm to the WTO as it describes the WTO’s institutional evolution from a power-oriented, tariff-reducing contract to a norm-oriented world trading community. Critically, this article does not attempt to replace the old paradigm (realism) with the new one (constructivism) proposed here. Instead, the article endeavors to highlight the old paradigms’ structural weaknesses and offers a complimentary, rather than alternative, paradigm. Thus, an IO’s reality embraced jointly by these two paradigms may feature a “double helix” structure under which any single paradigm might not claim its disciplinary monopoly.

Keywords: World Trade Organization, communication, community, constructivism

Suggested Citation

Cho, Sungjoon, Reconstructing an International Organization: A Paradigm Shift in the World Trade Organization (April 26, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Sungjoon Cho (Contact Author)

Chicago Kent College of Law ( email )

565 W. Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60661-3691
United States

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