Mike Rossi


Actual Position

Courses » International Organization

Content: International Organization

Table of Contents


This course explores different theoretical approaches and understandings of international organization. Classic arguments stem from Liberalist theories of international relations pertaining to interstate cooperation, collective action, and attempts to create an “international society”. More recently however, approaches to international organization have also focused on the role of Globalization not only from economic standpoints such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, but also from cultural, social, political, and institutional points of view. Therefore, it is not only necessary to cover international organizations such as the UN, NATO and the European Union, but also major state players and non-governmental organizations, but also the theoretical concepts of international organization.

We will begin by defining international organization in the classic sense and situate it in the context of mainstream and critical international relations theories. Subsequently, we will examine international organization in three thematic areas: security, political and economic development, and globalization. These three areas should not be treated as separate approaches, but should, and will, overlap in many cases, examples, and conceptual frameworks.

With this in mind, the three central questions posed in this course are:

  1. How do we define and conceptualize the term “international organization”?
  2. Who are the “winners” and “losers” in this process?
  3. What can we predict about the future development and effects of IO?

Target Group

This is a mid-level class that can easily serve as a continuation of Intro to IR. I've regarded it as an unofficial sequel to the 100-level courses because it reexamines a number of specific issues in the previous class with greater attention to theory and substance. It is therefore mostly applicable to Sophomores and second semester Freshmen, though the class is open to all students. While students who have not taken the 100-level IR course can still do well in this, I have designed the course with direct references to elements covered in the Introductory class.

This class is particularly compatible with students interested in international studies, international law, and the workings of the United Nations. Those students in Model UN or thinking of participating in an internship program there would find much of the material in this class useful and interesting to their further research.

Course Structure

The course offers the usual balance between theory and example, drawing heavily on the topics of Liberalism and Neoliberalism, first introduced in Intro to IR. Because the class is titled International Organization, it focuses on both formal organizations like the League of Nations, the UN, NATO, and the EU, and the nature of international organization, which examines differing approaches and understandings of international society, international cooperation, dependency, law and jurisprudence, political economy, globalization, and security studies. This class also examines the roles of hegemonic states as either having the capabilities of, or greatly designing and influencing the structure of, international organizations. Key readings in the beginning of the second half of class by Ikenberry and Keohane outline the postwar international neoliberal system as largely designed by the United States.

As with most other mid-level courses, exams are written essays instead of in-class tests. Students are given a series of essay questions to choose from the take-home midterm and take-home final. Short "evaluation papers" are designed to help students understand the (bi) weekly materials covered (as well as ensure they do the readings), develop their analytic and writing skills for the larger papers, and reduce the burden of performance on one or two major exams.

Class participation is also another critical component to one's grade, which is evaluated through in-class discussion, performance on in-class quizzes, online discussions (if students are not comfortable talking in class), and office hour visits.

Work Material

This is one of the few non-introductory courses where I felt a textbook was necessary. In addition, a number of chapter articles were taken from two edited readers:

Other readings have already been offered in the Intro to IR class, but are read with different approaches and understandings. Students who had not taken the earlier class are reading these for the first time as well. I also decided to include a chapter from a textbook on the European Union as a sort of "test run" for students to evaluate in terms of whether the whole book should be used for the EU class I was concurrently designing. The book has since been added to the EU class curriculum.

Author Bibliographic Data
Carr, E.H. The Twenty Years’ Crisis – 1919 – 1939. New York: Harper and Row, 1964 [Car64]
Gilpin, Robert The Challenge of Global Capitalism. Princeton University Press, 2002 [Gil02]
Ginsberg, Roy Demystifying the European Union. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010 [Gin10]
Ikenberry, G. John “Liberal Hegemony and the Future of American Postwar Order”, in International Order and the Future of World Politics. T.V., Paul and John A, Hall, eds. Cambridge University Press, 1999: 146 – 154 [Ike99]
Karns, Margaret P., and Karen Mingst
International Organizations: The Politics and Process of Global Governance. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2004
Keohane, Robert After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton University Press, 1984 [Keo84]
Layne, Christopher “The Unipolar Illusion: Why New Great Powers Will Rise” International Security, vol. 17, no. 4 (1993), pp. 5 – 51 [Lay93]
Mann, Michael “Has Globalization Ended the Nation State?” in International Order and the Future of World Politics. T.V., Paul and John A, Hall, eds. Cambridge University Press, 1999: 237 – 261 [Man99]
Martin, Lisa L. “An Institutionalist View: International Institutions and State Strategies,” in International Order and the Future of World Politics. T.V., Paul and John A, Hall, eds. Cambridge University Press, 1999: 78 – 98 [Mar99]
Miller, Lynn H. “The Idea and the Reality of Collective Security”, in The Politics of Global Governance. Paul Diehl ed. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Reinner Publishers Inc, 2001: 167 – 201 [Mil01]
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004 [NatCom04]
O’Neill, Barry “Power and Satisfaction in the Security Council”, in The Politics of Global Governance. Paul Diehl ed. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Reinner Publishers Inc, 2001: 117 – 137 [ONe01]
Stiglitz, Joseph Globalization and its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2003 [Sti03]
Taft IV, William and Todd Buchwald “Preemption, Iraq, and International Law”, American Journal of International Law, vol. 97, no. 3 (2003), pp. 557 – 563 [Taf03]
Thakur, Ramesh “Human Rights: Amnesty International and the United Nations”, in The Politics of Global Governance. Paul Diehl ed. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Reinner Publishers Inc, 2001: 361 – 387 [Tha01]
Wallander, Celeste A. “Institutional Assets and Adaptibility: NATO After the Cold War”, International Organization, vol. 54, no. 4 (Autumn 2000), pp. 705 – 735 [Wal00]


©Michael Rossi – http://michael-rossi.demokratio.info