The intersection of international organization and crime and corruption has been garnering increasing interest from international studies scholars and practitioners. An international organization can be defined, following the International Law Commission, as an “organization established by a treaty or other instrument governed by international law and possessing its own international legal personality.” International organizations generally have States as members, but often other entities can also apply for membership. They both make international law and are governed by it. Yet, the decision-making process of international organizations is often less a question of law than one of political judgment. Meanwhile, corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person, or an institution, entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Strangely, the most important contribution to the field of organized crime did not come from criminology, legal studies, or international studies, but from philosophy. Recognizing both criminal law and international relations as the exercise of power, Michel Foucault introduced radically new thinking in the area of societal control in relation to the study of organized crime.
Frank G. Madsen
The emerging discipline of Political Science recognized international organization as an object of study earlier (i.e., around 1910) than International Law, which through an engagement with League of Nations ideals began to follow the developments of international organizations (IOs) during the 1920s, and History, which kept its focus on states and war rather than on IOs until the early 2000s. The debate between Liberal Institutionalism and (after 1945 dominant) Realism deeply influenced the study of IOs. The engagement of the United States in the United Nations System, however, stimulated further studies of IOs and produced new theoretical orientations that left room for Realist factors. The modernization of International Relations studies through Regime Theory eventually removed the need to ask historical questions, resulting in short-term studies of IOs, but new approaches such as Constructivism and Historical Institutionalism contributed to studies of long-term change of IOs and critical junctures in history. The main International Relations approach traces the rise of the United Nations System (or, more broadly, IOs) as an instrument of American exceptionalism in the world. This view is being criticized by the paradigmatic turn in the discipline of History in the early 2000s, which has included IOs in its research and relates the creation of IOs to imperial powers such as the United Kingdom and France that wanted to safeguard their empires. These historical studies start in 1919 rather than 1945 and also question International Relations’ Western-centrist universalism by including competing universalisms such as anticolonial nationalism.