International Bureaucracy

Jarle Trondal has published the chapter ‘International Bureaucracy: Organizational Structure and Behavioural Implications’ in Routledge Handbook of International Organization.


This chapter contributes to the growing international bureaucracy literature by assessing the relationship between bureaucratic structure and administrative behaviour. It addresses two research questions: 1) To what extent do international civil servants abide by a logic of hierarchy within international bureaucracies, thus challenging an inherent logic of portfolio? 2) Does a logic of hierarchy profoundly penetrate international bureaucracies, or does it merely occur at the executive centre (within the presidential offices and general secretariats) of these bureaucracies?

This chapter empirically shows that a logic of hierarchy is mainly evident in the Commission administration, and only marginally in the OECD and WTO Secretariats. Moreover, within the Commission, a logic of hierarchy is primarily observed at the executive centre (inside the Secretariat-General) and only marginally in administrative sub-units such as DG Trade.

Concomitantly, a logic of hierarchy, when observed, does not seem to profoundly penetrate international bureaucracies writ large. Within the Commission, two behavioural logics tend to coexist, albeit embedded within different organizational sub-units. A portfolio logic seems to be overwhelmingly present within policy DGs. The portfolio logic serves as the foundational behavioural logic at the heart of DG Trade and seems to be activated fairly independently of behavioural logics present within the Secretariat-General. A previous study of top Commission officials supports this finding, reporting that the Commission is caught between a call for managerialism and upholding Weberian bureaucratic principles (Ellinas and Suleiman 2009: 83). This balancing act seems less noticeable in the OECD and WTO Secretariats, which are overwhelmingly dominated by a portfolio logic.

Variation in the administrative behaviour of international civil servants, both across and within international bureaucracies, is explained with reference to the accumulation of relevant organizational capacities at the executive centre of international bureaucracies and the vertical and horizontal specialization of such organizations.

Full info

Jarle Trondal
'International Bureaucracy: Organizational Structure and Behavioural Implications’

In: Routledge Handbook of International Organization
Bob Reinalda (ed.)

Routledge 2013
ISBN 978-0-415-50143-9

Published June 11, 2013 3:18 PM - Last modified June 18, 2013 12:05 PM