The Risky Comparisons of International Organizations
The UN and many other INGO’s are used to intervene into many affairs of modern society. One of the most critical affairs in this sense is state-building or peace-keeping in cases where the nation state has failed. This contribution will point out the contradictions and paradoxes of INGO interventions into systems which are (at least in principle) capable of and claim self-determination. These contradictions and paradoxes will be interpreted as risks of intervention into complex systems. The paper will focus on the destructive effects of risky comparisons by bureaucratic organizations itself.
The social order in failed states is routinely compared to some kind of a liberal (market or democratic) regime, which is taken as a global standard to which a disturbed social order should adapt (Paris). It is this comparison with an effective normative order (mostly liberal regimes) which devalues the existing identities as well as underlying structures in failed states. This devaluation establishes itself in routine operations on military, administrative, economic and political issues – but it is presupposed and backed by the cognitive activity of comparing (and observing this act of comparison).
This paper will focus on forms of resistance – like devious cooptation, infiltration, insurgency and terrorism – to these social and cognitive pressures triggered by international comparison. Such resistance will not be downplayed as marginal or temporary as neo-institutionalist scholarship tends to do (Boli). It will be interpreted as reaction on risky interventions. Solutions of the denoted forms of resistance, which are perceived as problems in the process of state - or peace-building, lie in mobilizing alternatives to rigid liberal models (Barnett) as well as in tolerating operative deviances from those norms. These alternatives are simultaneously devices for reducing the risks of intervention by comparisons.