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Problems of World Organization

1 August 2016 at 00:26 | 1183 views


Problems of World Organization

“The Crisis of Multilateralism and World Order”.

By Dr.Falla Lamin, USA.*

How is Cox’s emphasis on the relationship between multilateralism and world order, allow one to better discuss the causes and manifestations of the “crisis of multilateralism?”

How do the different international relations paradigms (realism, liberal institutionalism, world-system structuralism and historical dialectic) offer distinct explanations of multilateralism?

For us to understand the emphasis Cox is placing on the relationship between multilateralism and world order we have to first define the terms. The oxford English dictionary defined multilateralism as the quality of being multilateral, adherence to multilateral principles and practice. Multilateral meaning involving three or more states as parties to an agreement. The same dictionary defined World Order as an international set of arrangements for preserving global political stability.
With these definitions at the back of our mind let us look at what Cox has to say about these two terms.

Cox said that “multilateralism and world order are indispensable and interrelated.” For “world order” Cox said that “it has become a current catchphrase for political discourse and journalism meaning that most world leaders are using the phrase as a new form of economic and political reform undertaken to replace the Bretton-Woods institutions such as the World Bank ( WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to a new type of system that will incorporate the contribution of the non-governmental organizations, civil society and the marginalized in society, such as women and social deviance.

As for multilateralism Cox said “it has become something like a growth sector in academic studies.” This simply means that there is much more research work to be done by graduate students in political science and academics in defining multilateralism. As stated earlier, multilateralism can only be understood within the context in which it exists, and that context is the historical structure of world order. Multilateralism cannot just be looked at with one lens but with different lenses that will show different results when looked at from these different lenses. Cox then referred to the delicate and chameleon type of creature behavior as the “agent/structure dilemma of Chicken-and-egg proposition” where you cannot derive the other without having the other. Chicken comes from eggs and eggs come from chicken. This analogy show how interrelated world order is with multilateralism. For example in the capitalist world that we live in today the neo-liberals in Bretton-Woods institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the emphasis of the agreement was a free market economy, free movement of capital, goods and services, trade liberation, and privatization can all be viewed as the new world order which was promoted by Margaret Thatcher of Britain and Ronald Reagan of America in the 1980s and 1990s. The concept of multilateralism can then be seen as the nation-state powers that are then used to enter into global relations.

Multilateralism serving as a catalyst, in this context can be seen having negative effect with trade union demonstrations and strikes in the 1980s in both England the United States. A case in point is the flight controller’s strike which was disbanded by President Reagan.

According to Cox “the dominant tendencies in existing world order can be examined within the global systems having three principal components, namely: a global political economy, an inter-state system and the biosphere or global ecosystem.” These three components are both autonomous in having their own inherent dynamics, and at the same time interdependent with each other. Contradictions are generated within each of the three spheres, and contradiction arises in the interrelationships among the three spheres.

For example in the current global political economy we have seen the melt down of the global financial market in the United States and in other leading economies like Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Australia; because of the multilateral nature of the global economies a problem in one will have a re-vibrations in the other economies, because of the global, political multilateral connectivity. As recently as few weeks when Britain in a national referendum voted to leave the European Union (EU) the world financial market is in a decline due to the principles of multilateralism that is practice among the countries around the world.

Also due to an inter-state system component of the world order and multilateral nature of the nation states, there are no internal laws that protect the interest of nation-state due to globalization and multilateralism; as a result most states do not have state boundaries because globalization in the form of technology and communication is breaking down those barriers. The use of the wireless communication devices such as the cell phones is far reaching places that were not intended. The use of an internet and camera phones will report events live as they occur. For example the demonstration of the Tibetan monks against Chinese occupation of their homeland in August before the Chinese Olympics games seeking autonomy from China puts china on the spot and the brutal response of the Chinese security forces was reported live for the whole world to see. China cannot control the flow of information as it use to do in the old days. Globalization and multilateralism have made this possible.

Lastly the biosphere or global ecosystem simply means that the world is now a big web or food chain wherein the action of one will lead to a chain reaction of another. With the advent of globalization and multilateralism poor countries in the southern hemisphere who have virgin rain forest such as the Amazon are cutting down their trees and selling it to the richer countries for a much needed liquid cash, in so doing acres and acres of the rain forest have been logged and as a consequence of this activity we have seen in the last couple of years flooding of over whelming proportion and many villages and towns have been wiped off which has caused a wave of refugees in these countries. In the United States we have seen the effect of Katrina in new Orleans and Galveston island in Texas which has now become inhabitable because of what we have done with the increasing use of fossil fuel through human activities that has increase output in the atmosphere of harmful gasses that destroy the ozone layer which has now cause global warming which is now melting the snow in the arctic region that was once considered untouchable.

To help us to further understand the interrelationships of world order and multilateralism, in conventional diplomatic term, Cox referred to “multilateral as referring to states,” what that meant is, it covers relationships among more than two states with respect to some specific issues or set of issues. In another usage Cox defined “multilateral in international economic relations refer to multilateral trade and payments.” Multilateralism in this sense referred to the most favored nation principle in international trade and the movement towards convertibility of currencies and the freedom of capital flow, as we have seen in our previous study of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) when the value of the United States dollar was pegged to gold.

The first of these meaning referred to above according to Cox of “multilateralism was derived from inter-state system; it is limited to relations among states through diplomatic channels or inter-state organizations. The Second refers to relations among the economic actors and civil society within a frame work regulated by states and international organization.”

It pertains to a historically specific form of capitalist market economy, in which civil society is separated and distinct from the state, and the agents of civil society are presumed to act within a system of rationally deducible behavioral law. It would have little or no meaning for the relationships among what Karl Polanyi called redistributive societies whether ancient empires or modern centrally planned economies. Due to the chicken-egg nature of the term multilateralism and to coin a definition for today and tomorrow we have to condition the world-system and the power relationships that will give the contextual meaning to the term. In the most general statement of the problem of multilateral Cox has implored us to consider the following questions:

- “What kinds of entities are involved in multilateral relations?”
- “What kind of system connects theses entities?”
- “What specific condition of the system gives contextual meaning to the terms multilateral and multilateralism?”
- “What kind of knowledge is appropriate to understanding of the phenomenon of multilateralism?”

Answers to all these questions will lead us to have an insight into the terms of multilateral and multilateralism.

According to Cox “multilateralism can be examined from two main stand points, namely as an institutionalization and regulation of established order and the locus of interactions for the transformation of existing order” multilateralism in practice, is both, but these two aspects find their bases in different parts of the overall structure of multilateralism.

Cox emphasis on the relationship between multilateralism and world order helped us to better discuss the causes and manifestations of the crisis of multilateralism.
In a collection of articles by Dutch officials and scholars published in 1988 entitled “The U.N under attack” Sir Shridath Ramphal has this to say: “the paradox and the tragedy-of recent times is that even as the need for better management of relations between nations and for a multilateral approach to global problems has become more manifest, support for internationalism has weakened – eroded by some of the strongest nations whose position behooves them to be at its vanguard and who have in the past acknowledged that obligation of leadership. This is truer, of course, of the united states, whose recent behavior has served actually to weaken the structures of multilateralism, including the United Nations itself.”
hese are pretty strong words from the secretary general of the commonwealth. The causes of such crisis in multilateralism as we now know it are many, but some of them are as follows.

First, there is a weakening support of rich member nations towards internationalism or multilateralism by the United States and the United Nations because of the financial burden involved.

Second, there is also lack of global consensus for all the countries to work together for one global world community where neighbors learn partnership of living together. Third, there is lack of coordination’s between rich nations. Most of them have their own personal agenda for dominance.

Fourth, the countries with the most influence such as the United States dictates the agenda and insist on free market economy, deregulation and privatizing the economic policies both at home and abroad.

Fifth, in order to stifle growth and development, policies that are implemented, weakens the economic and political structures.

The manifestations of these causes in the crisis of multilateralism are envisaged in the dominance and ascendancy into unilateralism in world affairs. For example the recent war against Iraq was unilaterally undertaken by the United Sates without the support of the United Nations.

In our world today we have seen the dominance of the few over the many. For example we have seen how China has dominated the world market in terms of trade and the Untied States in technology. During the economic crisis in the 1980s and 1990s the Untied States had the notion that the United Nations was an unfriendly political forum and a potential obstacle to economic liberalization.

The United States, Russia and China have shifted a significant proportion of their resources form military to civilian purposes and vice-versa.

The United States has heard cooperative relationship with the other members of the Security Council who have veto power as and when it sees fit. For example during the first gulf war when Iraq attacked Kuwait, a consensus was formed at the Security Council to stop Iraq from disrupting their security interest. The different international relations such as realism, liberal institutionalism, world-system structuralism and historic dialectic offer distinct explanations of multilateralism and now we are going to examine them in detail.

First Realism: Is the starting point of the global power relations which makes it contemporary in nature. Realism primary emphasis is upon states and the analysis of the historical behavior of states. According to Cox “realism in its more sophisticated manifestations, is also concerned with the economic and social underpinnings of states and how the nature of states changes.”
In classical realism, the state is not absolute, it is historicized. In such a world multilateralism is conceivable at most as a series of transitory arrangements designed to achieve collective purposes among a group of states and redefinitions of state interests. These could change the composition of groupings of states that are able to discover common or compatible purposes.

International institutions and general principles of international law or behavior are not absent from the realist conception of world order but they have what a Marxist might call Super structural character.

That is to say they are not to be taken at face value but to be seen as a means of achieving ends that derive from the real conflicts of interest at the heart of the system.

E.H. Carr, whose work remains in classic exposition of realist thinking wrote “just as the ruling class in a community prays for domestic peace which guarantees its own security and predominance, and denounces class war which might threaten them, so international peace becomes a specially vested interest of predominant power.” And: “International government is, in effect, govern by that state which supplies the power necessary for the purpose of governing.” For example this was seen in the relationship between Britain and Sierra Leone during the civil conflict. The security and the interest of the ruling class was threaten, so Britain’s’ manpower and logistics to assist the military to crush the rebels who tried to disintegrate the state apparatus.

In the realist perspective there is room for a considerable proliferation of international institutions but little room for any cumulative acquisition of authority by these institutions.

The critical realist analyst is determined to strip away the clock of public perception so as to reveal the basic purposes at work. It is only by laying bare this interest that counteracting forces be put together, forces which in turn might make use of international institutions and principles of law and morality to further their different purposes. Classic realism is capable of recognizing its own limitations and they arise with the phenomenon of moral sentiment.

The realist will, however beware of placing too heavy a burden of practice upon moral sentiment. Classic realist remains remarkable in the extent to which it is capable of accounting for the condition of multilateralism. This provide an explanation of the United States go slow approach from the United Nations system during the 1970s, with the perception that a soviet blocking ability in the security council and the third world majority in the general assembly negated the endorsement of the U.S goals in these bodies.

Classic realism also provides an explanation for the second phase for the crisis of multilateralism. The withdrawal of soviet power as counter-weight to U.S power and the close association of the Soviet with the U.S positions in the Security Council, coupled with continued financial pressures on Third World Countries guaranteed a docile response to U.S initiative in the Security Council. Most Third World countries were constrained by financial pressures of external debt to open their economies further to the penetration of dominant forces in the world economy protected by the United States. A third world country that sought to control its economic resources in its own interest in contradiction of external market forces posed a challenge to the global economic system. Chile and Nicaragua were not alone to suffer the consequences. A security council under U.S dominance could authorize military action that would stand as a warning to any third world country disposed to build a military challenge to the system. The real reasons for the U.S war against Iraq in a realist, interpretation, remained obscured by the public ritual in the Security Council.

A classic realism is a critical theory in that it does not accept appearance of face value but seek to penetrate to the meaning within. It takes account of historical structures as well as events. These structures are shaped and reshaped slowly over time - the longue duree of Fernand Braudel. “They are the inter-subjective realities of world politics.” The critical analysis of classical realism is the process of discerning the meaning of events within these historically determines frameworks for action. Classical realism is to be seen as a means of empowerment of the less powerful, a means of demystification of the manipulative instruments of power.

This realist theory helps to empower the less powerful in the global system of multilateralism. This theory advanced by the academic community help the understanding and advocating with dominant countries such as the United States, Britain, Germany and France to be inclusive and considerate in dealing with the less powerful and poorer countries on economic, political and moral grounds.

The institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF should implement policies and conditions that will take into account the historical, economic, political, and cultural differences. The institutions should also give loans with favorable terms of payment and moderate interest rates. The marginalized and minority in the community such as women, children and the low cast should be encouraged to participate in programs designed to help them.

Second, the liberal institutionalism or theoretically know as functionalism from the moment of the drafting of the UN Charter to present, different current theories have centered these theories which tries to transform world order by progressively bring the state system within some form of authoritative regulation.

The earlier formulation of this theory was by David Mitrany who wrote “Functionalism, despairing of progress through the world federalist approach to constructing world native approach through “low politics” of functional or technical agencies.”
His principal argument was that by associating professionals and technicians who are primarily concerned with solving practical problems of everyday life from delivering the mail on time to promoting health, education and welfare in international agencies charged with these matters. The conflict sphere of “high politics” monopolized by diplomats and political leaders and diminished by cooperative sphere of functionalism. Functionalism became embodied in the specialized agencies established as component parts of the UN system.

The application of this theory was in the 1960s when the United Nations expanded its technical assistance work in less-developed countries. The world system was in a sense helping to build the state structures upon which it formally was to rest.

Functionalism which distinguished “low” from “high” politics in order to focus upon the former, with the implication that in the long run low politics was the more fundamental offered no theory of how a more centralized world authority would come about.
Neo-functionalist theory filled this gap, according to its proponents that, scope and authority of international institutions would be increased through a conscious strategy of leadership. Innovative leadership could manipulate an impasse in which action was blocked at the margin of an institution’s existing authority into a consensus for the expansion of authority into the broadening field that would enable action to advance. This was called “Spill over”

Neo-functionalism also expanded the range of relevant actors to include elements of civil society, trade union, industrial associations, and consumer groups and other advocacy groups and political parties. The orientation of these various interests towards international institutions would enhance the authority of these institutions.
The broadening of scope and authority of international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF was considered by neo-functionalist as a process of integration. Karl W. Deutsch defined integration “as the formation of security community enjoyed institutions and practices of a kind that allowed for a reasonable expectation that change would proceed by peaceful rather than violent means”. Deutsch’s approach gave more emphasis to modes of common understanding and communication, without placing the conditions of integration necessarily upon the creation of an authoritative central power.

Neo-Functionalism had its greatest success in the European Economic Integration with regard to Latin America; the importance of autonomous interest groups and political parties was replaced by technocratic elites. Neo-functionalism was also applied through with somewhat lesser plausibility, to the world as a whole. Both theories were challenged by the East-West conflicts of the cold war and the north-south political issues that remained after decolonization in the 1960 notably southern Africa and Arab - Israel conflicts which could not be set aside by technical cooperation. Liberal institutionalism takes the existing order as given, as something to be made to work more smoothly, not as something to be criticized and changed. In effect liberal institutionalism has its starting point in the coexistence of state system and world capitalist economy.

According to Cox “the current implications of liberal institutionalism are that new regimes or international institutions maybe more difficult to initiate or even to change in the absence of dominant power able and willing to commit resources to them, but that existing regimes may survive and evolve to the extent that they provide information and facilities for dealing with matters among their members.” These regimes and institutions facilitate the interactions of states and components of civil society within their spheres. This approach to multilateralism is consistent with a conservatively adaptive attitude towards the existing structures of world order. This theory therefore supports the neo-liberal approach of the Breton- Woods institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Third, is the World – System Structuralism – This theory unlike others have not been directed explicitly towards the study of international organization though it provide a frame work for multilateralism. It deals with the totality of the world system. Unlike realism this theory sees states as constitutive units that have a structural relationship that is predetermined by the world economy. A relationship expressed in terms of core and periphery and a sub-classification of semi – periphery.

The term “state” according to Cox refers to the political aspect of an entity labeled primarily in economic terms.

Core economies are dominant over peripheral economies. They core deter main the conditions in which peripheral economies produce and they (Core) extract surplus from peripheral production for the total benefit of the core economies.

Core in this context refer to Breton Woods institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF which are controlled by the wealthy nation-states such as the U.S, Britain, Germany, France, Canada, and Japan.

Due to these unequal relationships the core produces under development because of the extraction of the surplus by core from the peripheral poor or emerging, economies.
Semi-Peripheral economies are strong enough to protect themselves from this kind of exploitation and over times they will struggle to attain core status. An example of a semi-peripheral economies consist of china, India, Malaysia, Russia, and the others that recently attended the G20 summit in Washington. D.C. to discuss the recent melt down of the financial institutions. When the peripheral structure of power is over thrown, its components can count on the resources of the core which may be financial, intelligence, and ultimately military in order to destabilize the forces (rebels) that have taken power from them.

Even though multilateralism does not have central role in world system theory, as it is in liberal institutionalism, this theory has obvious implications for multilateralism. Multilateralism is seen as an instrument for institutionalizing the core-periphery structure of domination. The role of IMF and the World Bank is to enforce the practice of openness to world economic forces over peripheral economies.
What world-system theory lacks is the ability to explain change and structural transformation. Due to this inability world-system theory can be described as structuralism which is contrasted with dialectic transformation of historical structures. The above try to explain multilateralism in nation-states in international relations.

Lastly, Historical dialectic – are persistent patterns of human behavior or activities which can last for a long period of time. They are also the result of collective response to certain common problems, such as the fight to eliminate poverty, hunger and war.

These structures a malleable (i.e.) they can be shaped in whatever size and shape based on the prevailing structural circumstances. This approach was coined by Ralf Dahrendorf; he stated that “The idea of a society which produces in its structure, the antagonisms that lead to its modification appears as an appropriate model for the analyst of change in general.”

This approach can be seen in one aspect as a deepening of classical realism, where realism focuses on upon the state and the state-system, historical dialectic inquires into the social processes that creates and transform form of state and the state system itself, and into alterations in perceptions and meanings that constitute and reconstitute the objective world order. It therefore crosses the line in the present, from past to future and approaches the problem of multilateralism as a problem in the making and of a new world order.

*Dr Falla Lamin, from Sierra Leone, is a US-based independent researcher and political consultant.