The Autonomy of Bureaucratic Organisations: An Organisation Theory Argument

The craft of international organisations is to a large extent supplied by the autonomy of its bureaucratic arm. This paper theorises conditions for the autonomy of bureaucratic organisations and offers some empirical illustrations of autonomy among office holders in international bureaucracies.

ARENA Working Paper 8/2013 (pdf)

Jarle Trondal and Frode Veggeland

The craft of international organisations is to a large extent supplied by the autonomy of its bureaucratic arm. The ambition of this paper is two-folded: The first and most important ambition is to theorise conditions for the autonomy of bureaucratic organisations. One secondary ambition is to offer some empirical illustrations of autonomy among office holders in international bureaucracies. Benefiting from interviews with civil servants from three international bureaucracies, two illustrations are suggested: First, actor-level autonomy is present among civil servants within three international bureaucracies embedded in three seemingly different international organisations. One second theoretical lesson learned is that international bureaucracies may possess considerable capacity to shape essential behavioural perceptions among its staff in particular, and foster behavioural autonomisation more generally. Two causal mechanisms are discussed: (i) behavioural and role adaptation through organisational rule-following, and (ii) behavioural and role internalisation through ‘in-house’ socialisation processes.

The paper was later published in Journal of International Organization Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2014

Tags: Autonomy, Organisational Approach, Socialisation, Supranationalism, International Bureaucracy
Published Jan. 22, 2014 10:26 AM - Last modified Apr. 21, 2016 10:18 PM