Power and Passion in International Organizations: A Call to Rethink the Law

30 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2023 Last revised: 3 Nov 2023

See all articles by Eyal Benvenisti

Eyal Benvenisti

University of Cambridge - Lauterpacht Centre for International Law

Date Written: October 26, 2023


After 1945, international organizations (IOs) were enthusiastically lauded as the effective, democratic means for resolving international conflicts and promoting global welfare. Sharing this enthusiasm, the International Court of Justice developed doctrines which exuded confidence in IOs, premised on a belief that their subjection to legal accountability is unnecessary and even counterproductive. The fundamental faith in the idea of IOs persisted despite growing evidence of IO failure, because this failure was associated with agents defying their principals’ commands and hence resolvable by improving agents’ accountability. In this Article I argue that the problem with IOs runs deeper as I develop a typology of the functions that IOs serve and of the factors that promote or impede collaboration. I demonstrate that, to paraphrase Clausewitz’s famous quip, IOs are spaces where politics continue with other means. Absent key factors that secure endogenous collaboration, power reigns within IOs, At the same time, I propose that my typology opens the door for studying ways to enhance inter-state collaboration through the institutional design of each IO. Since IOs tend to be arenas where politics continue with other means, they should not necessarily remain shielded from the requirements of the international rule of law.

Keywords: international law, international organisations, international relations theory, international cooperation, international coordination, international courts

Suggested Citation

Benvenisti, Eyal, Power and Passion in International Organizations: A Call to Rethink the Law (October 26, 2023). University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 30/2023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4613909 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4613909

Eyal Benvenisti (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Lauterpacht Centre for International Law ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics