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Transgovernmental Relations and International Organizations

  • Robert O. Keohane (a1) and Joseph S. Nye

Students of world politics have tended to assume that states act as units. Yet trans-governmental relations—direct interactions among sub-units not controlled or closely guided by the policies of cabinets or chief executives—are frequently important. Trans-governmental relations are facilitated by extensive personal contacts among officials and by conflicts of interest between departments or agencies within modern governments. International organizations can play important roles in transgovernmental networks by (i) affecting the definition of issues; (2) promoting coalitions among governmental subunits with similar interests; and (3) serving as points of policy intervention in trans-national systems. As policy interdependence among developed-country governments becomes more extensive and complex, these roles of international organizations are likely to become increasingly important. Internationalism of this relatively informal, non-institutionalized type is not a “dead end.”

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1 For a general discussion, see Keohane, Robert O. and Nye, Joseph S. Jr., eds., Trans-national Relations and World Politics (Cambridge, Mass. 1972). For documentation of the point based on a survey of the literature, see John R. Handelman, John A. Vas-quez, Michael K. O'Leary, and William D. Coplin, “Color it Morgenthau: A Data-Based Assessment of Quantitative International Relations Research,” paper delivered to the International Studies Association, March 1973.

2 Huntington, Samuel P., “Transnational Organizations in World Politics,” World Politics, xxv (April 1973), 333–68; quotations from pp. 338, 339, and 368 respectively.

3 Ibid., 358.

4 Ibid., 348–49.

5 This is a slight modification of our usage in the volume cited above. We used the term “transnational interactions” to refer to “interactions in which one actor was nongovernmental,” and the term “transnational relations” as a generic category that included both “transnational and transgovernmental interactions.” We have become convinced that this was unnecessarily confusing. For a stimulating critique of our language as well as our ideas, see Wagner, R. Harrison, “Dissolving the State: Three Recent Perspectives on International Relations,” International Organization, XXVIII (Spring 1974).

6 Karl Kaiser has been a pioneer in developing arguments about what he calls “multi-bureaucratic politics.” See in particular his “Transnational Politics: Toward a Theory of Multinational Politics,” International Organization, xxv (Autumn 1971), and “Trans-national Relations as a Threat to the Democratic Process,” in Keohane and Nye (fn. 1).

7 Testimony of Francis Bator before the Subcommittee on Foreign Economic Policy, Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, July 25, 1972. U. S. Foreign Economic Policy: Implications for the Organization of the Executive Branch, 110–11.

8 See Campbell, John F., The Foreign Affairs Fudge Factory (New York 1971), 204 ff., for figures on the United States. On Britain, see Sampson, Anthony, “The Institutions of British Foreign Policy,” in Kaiser, Karl and Morgan, Roger, eds., Britain and West Germany: Changing Societies and the Future of Foreign Policy (London 1971).

9 Bauer, Raymond, “The Study of Policy Formation,” in Bauer, Raymond and Gergen, Kenneth, eds., The Study of Policy Formation (New York 1968), 2.

10 M. S. Hochmuth, comments at Transnational Relations Study Group Seminar, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, February 8, 1972.

11 Krasner, Stephen, “Are Bureaucracies Important?” Foreign Policy, VII (Summer 1972).

12 New York Times, October I, 1972.

13 Dale Thompson, Testimony before Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defense, House of Commons (Canada), Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, April 28, 1970.

14 Neustadt, Richard E., Alliance Politics (New York 1970), 37.

15 Patterson, Gardner, Discrimination in International Trade: The Policy Issues (Princeton 1966), 36.

16 See Holsti, K. J., “The United States and Canada,” in Spiegel, Steven and Waltz, Kenneth, eds., Conflict in World Politics (Cambridge, Mass. 1971).

17 New York Times, December 4, 6, and 16, 1971.

18 Our thinking on the subject of elite networks was stimulated by our friend and valued colleague, the late Ivan Vallier, who was undertaking systematic research on elite networks in Latin America until his death in January 1974.

19 Coleman, James, “Political Money,” American Political Science Review, LXIV (December 1970), 1074–87.

20 See Lindberg, Leon and Scheingold, Stuart, Europe's Would-Be Polity (Englewood Cliffs, N. J. 1970); Sheinman, Lawrence, “Some Preliminary Notes on Bureaucratic Relationships in the EEC,” International Organization, xx (Autumn 1966); and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “Central American Regional Integration,” International Conciliation, No. 562 (March 1967).

21 This definition is based on the article by William A. Garrison on “Coalitions,” in theInternational Encyclopedia of Social Science.

22 Theodore Geiger and Roger Hansen, “The Role of Information in Decision Making on Foreign Aid,” in Bauer and Gergen (fn. 9).

23 Based on conversations with a participant (1973).

24 New York Times, December 9, 1972.

25 Edward Miles, “Transnationalism in Space: Inner and Outer,” in Keohane and Nye (fn. 1).

26 Based on conversations with a participant (1972).

27 In the cases of the weather bureau and the Spanish bases, the United States Government was divided while the smaller state apparently had a relatively unified policy. In terms of coherence, these relationships were asymmetrical in favor of Canada and Spain, respectively. Spain, Nationalist China, Israel, and Canada are among the countries that have taken advantage of the size and diversity of the United States Government to create asymmetries of coherence in their favor to counter asymmetries of power in favor of the United States. See Keohane, Robert O., “The Big Influence of Small Allies,” Foreign Policy, 11 (Spring 1971). For Canadian cases, see Swanson, Roger, “The United States Canadian Constellation I: Washington, D. C,” International Journal, XXVII (Spring 1972), 185218; Holsti (fn. 18); and Nye, J. S., “Transnational Relations and Interstate Conflict: An Empirical Analysis,” International Organization, XXVIII (Autumn 1974).

28 Singer, J. David and Wallace, Michael, “Intergovernmental Organization in the Global System, 1815–1964,” International Organization, XXIV (Spring 1970); Angell, Robert C., Peace on the March: Transnational Participation (New York 1969).

29 Lindberg and Scheingold (fn. 20), 80.

30 Beichman, Arnold, The “Other” State Department (New York 1967), 92.

31 Cox, Robert W., “The Executive Head,” International Organization, XXIII (Spring 1969), 225.

32 See, for example, Nye, J. S., “UNCTAD: Poor Nations' Pressure Group,” in Cox, Robert W. and Jacobson, Harold K., eds., The Anatomy of Influence: Decision Making in International Organization (New Haven 1973).

33 James Magee discusses a situation in which FAO bureaucrats conspired with African governments to thwart the director's decision to relocate two offices. “EGA and the Paradox of African Cooperation,” International Conciliation, No. 580 (November 1970).

34 See Gordenker, Leon, “Multilateral Aid and Influence on Government Policies,” in Cox, Robert W., ed., International Organization: World Politics (London 1969). A related example is provided by the Jackson Report, which indicated that its investigations “revealed example after example where Departmental Ministers have advocated policies in the governing bodies of the particular agency which concerned them (e.g., a Minister of Agriculture in FAO, or a Minister of Education in UNESCO) which were in direct conflict with his government's policies toward the UN system as a whole.” United Nations, A Study of the Capacity of the United Nations Development System, Vol. I (Geneva 1969), v.

35 See Hirschman, Albert, Journeys Toward Progress (New York 1965), 291 ff.

36 Harold K. Jacobson, “WHO : Medicine, Regionalism, and Managed Politics,” in Cox and Jacobson (fn. 32), 214.

37 John G. Ruggie, “The World Weather Watch,” unpub., 1972.

38 Based on conversations with Strong during 1972.

39 Bauer, Raymond, Pool, Ithiel de Sola, and Dexter, Lewis, American Business and Foreign Policy (New York 1963), chap. 35, esp. pp. 472–75.

40 See Harold K. Jacobson, “WHO : Medicine, Regionalism, and Managed Politics,” pp. 194–205; and Robert W. Cox, “ILO: Limited Monarchy,” pp. 114–27, in Cox and Jacobson (fn. 32).

41 Skolnikoff, Eugene B., “Science and Technology: The Implications for International Institutions,” International Organization, xxv (Autumn 1971), 772.

42 Rosenau, James N., “Pre-Theories and Theories of Foreign Policy,” in Farrcll, R. Barry, ed., Approaches to Comparative and International Politics (Evanston, Ill. 1966), 7374. For another suggestive discussion of world politics in terms of networks of systems, see Burton, John, Systems, States, Diplomacy and Rules (Cambridge 1968), esp. pp. 610.

43 For a discussion of the conditions of existence for a system, see the article by Anatol Rapoport on “Systems,” in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, p. 452.

44 Where a larger number of countries is involved, problems of effectiveness become much more complex, and interdependence is likely to be more intricate.

45 This situation was described to us by two government officials. See also Hollick, Ann, “Seabeds make Strange Politics,” Foreign Policy, IX (Winter 1972–73).

46 Russell, Robert W., “Transgovernmental Interaction in the International Monetary System, 1960–1972,” International Organization, XXVII (Autumn 1973).

47 See Kaiser in Keohane and Nye (fn. 6).

48 See, for example, Angell (fn. 28); and Mitrany, David, A Working Peace System (Chicago 1966).

49 Huntington (fn. 2), 338.

50 Ibid., 339.

51 Ruggie, John G., “The Structure of International Organization: Contingency, Complexity, and Post-Modern Form,” Peace Research Society, Papers, XVIII, 1971, 7391.

* We have profited from discussions of the subject with Hayward Alker, Graham Allison, Robert Dickerman, Samuel Huntington, Alex Inkeles, Peter J. Katzenstein, Stephen Krasner, John Ruggie, Robert Russell, Harrison Wagner, and other members of the Transnational Relations Study Group at the Harvard Center for International Affairs. Support for this research was provided by the Ford Foundation.

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World Politics
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  • EISSN: 1086-3338
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