The Autonomy of Bureaucratic Organizations

Jarle Trondal and Frode Veggeland have published an article on bureaucratic organisations in Journal of International Organizations Studies. They have studied civil servants working in three international administrations, namely that of the WTO, the OECD, and the European Commission.


The craft of international organizations is to a large extent supplied by the autonomy of its bureaucratic arm. The ambition of this paper is twofold. The first and most important ambition is to theorize conditions for the autonomy of bureaucratic organizations. The second ambition is to offer some minor 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 organizations. Second, a theoretical lesson is that international bureaucracies may possess considerable capacity to shape essential behavioral perceptions among its staff in particular, and foster behavioral autonomization more generally, through the two causal mechanisms: behavioral and role adaptation through organizational rule following and behavioral and role internalization through “in-house” socialization processes. The paper also argues that future research programs are needed to provide larger-scale data sets that might complement these suggestive findings.

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Jarle Trondal and Frode Veggeland
The Autonomy of Bureaucratic Organizations: An Organization Theory Argument

Journal of International Organization Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, 2014, pp. 55-69

Published Jan. 28, 2015 1:30 PM - Last modified Jan. 28, 2020 9:08 AM