Palgrave Handbook of Inter-Organizational Relations in World Politics

pp 49-66


IR Paradigms and Inter-Organizational Theory: Situating the Research Program Within the Discipline

  • Christer JönssonAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Lund University


While the relation between international relations (IR) and organization theory was long one of mutual neglect, the shift from an intra-organizational toward an inter-organizational focus made organization theory more relevant to IR scholars. Jönsson traces the varying prominence of an inter-organizational approach in different IR paradigms. Whereas network theory highlights inter-organizational links, regime theory redirects attention toward ideational factors and privileges institutions over organizations. Resource-dependency theory and the principal-agent model represent refinements of inter-organizational theory. At the same time, a ‘transnational turn’ in IR draws attention to interaction between a wider set of organizations. Any theory focusing on agency in contemporary and future IR needs to encompass interactions between organizations, be they formal or informal, public or private, specialized or multi-issue.