Why International Organzations Hate Politics


Learn more about how and why IOs depoliticize the world

“We don’t do politics!” Every researcher embarked in the field of international organizations has heard this at least once from international bureaucrats, governmental delegates or civil society representatives engaged in multilateral negotiations. This book takes this apolitical claim seriously and questions the politics of IOs by building on the concept of depoliticization.

Delving into the inner dynamics of global governance, it develops an analytical framework on why IOs “hate” politics by bringing together practices and logics of depoliticization in a wide variety of historical, geographic and organizational contexts. With multiple case studies in the fields of labor rights and economic regulation, environmental protection, development and humanitarian aid, peacekeeping, among others this book shows that depoliticization sustains IO everyday activities while allowing them to remain engaged in politics, even when they pretend not to. 

For IO scholars and students, this book sheds new light on IO politics by clarifying one often taken-for-granted dimension of their everyday activities, precisely that of depoliticization. It will also be of interest to other researchers working in the fields of political science, international relations, international political sociology, international political economy, international public administration, history, law, sociology, anthropology and geography as well as IO practitioners.

Podcasts and online presentations

Why International Organizations Hate Politics

June 2022

A discussion with Amy Smith for The Next Page recorded and produced at the United Nations Library & Archives Geneva.

Depoliticization of international organizations: between functional necessity and pragmatism

May 2022

This week in International Horizons, RBI director John Torpey talked with Marieke Louis and Lucile Maertens about the trending depoliticization of international organizations and its effects for achieving results and enhancing cooperation.

The Global Machinery: Revisiting Technocracy, Depoliticization and International Organizations

November 2021

Book launch and discussion of Why International Organizations Hate Politics: Depoliticizing the World and International Organizations as Technocratic Utopia (by Jens Steffek), organized with the Research Centre “Normative Orders”, Goethe University Frankfurt, discussion by Frédéric Mérand.

Why International Organizations Hate Politics: The Case of the Environment at the UN

June 2021

Lecture series organized by the Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticos da Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (IESP-UERJ).

Blog posts

Why International Organizations Hate Politics: The case of the ILO and UNEP

October 2021

Blog post for The Global, the academic blog managed by the Graduate Institute Geneva’s Global Governance Centre.

Why International Organization (Apparently) Hate Politics

September 2021

Blog post for The Loop, the European Consortium for Political Research’s (ECPR) Political Science Blog.

Why International Organization Hate Politics

July 2021

Interview for international-organization.com.

Pourquoi les organisations internationales détestent-elles la politique ?

May 2021

Interview for L’Actu of the University of Lausanne.

Book reviews

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