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Unpublished Paper
An Identity Crisis of International Organizations
ExpressO (2009)
  • Sungjoon Cho

An Identity Crisis of International Organizations


International organizations (IOs) are ubiquitous. More than two hundred IOs touch our everyday lives, ranging banking to flu-shots. However, conventional political scientists seldom pay sufficient attention to IOs which they thoroughly deserve given their contemporary prominence. Because conventional international relations (IR) theories consider IOs as mere passive machineries, they hardly offer a satisfactory explanation on a distinctive mode of IOs’ institutional dynamic, in which a specific IO, as a separate and autonomous organic entity, grows, evolves and eventually makes sense of its own existence. This Essay offers a novel perspective which attempts to overcome the aforementioned deficiency in conventional IR theories. Drawing on the “identity theory” established by Erik Erikson, this new perspective captures an IO’s institutional development in which one can witness a dynamic process of its identity crisis and identity formation. The Essay argues that based on its autonomy qua organization, not merely as an instrument of states, an IO forms its organizational identity as it experiences an “identity crisis” in a similar way in which a human individual does. An IO acquires its organizational identity only after it achieves a necessary level of institutional maturity as a result of incessant interactions and communications with its environment (society). The Essay applies this theoretical framework to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

  • international organizations,
  • identity crisis,
  • equilibrium
Publication Date
March 1, 2009
Citation Information
Sungjoon Cho. "An Identity Crisis of International Organizations" ExpressO (2009)
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