Abstract and Keywords
This chapter examines the importance of legitimacy for international organizations (IOs), and their efforts to legitimate themselves vis-à-vis different audiences. It advances three main arguments. First, it argues that in most IOs the most important actors engaging in legitimation efforts are not the supranational bureaucracies, but member states. Second, legitimacy and legitimation serve a range of purposes for these states, beyond achieving greater compliance with their decisions. Instead, legitimacy is frequently sought to exclude outsiders from the functional or territorial domains affected by an international organization's authority, or to maintain external material and political support for existing arrangements. Third, one of the most prominent legitimation efforts, institutional reforms, often prioritizes form over function. IOs engaged in what the development economist Matt Andrews has called ‘isomorphic mimicry’, where reforms are not aimed at changing the underlying political structures and dynamics, but at signalling to important and powerful audiences to encourage their continued material and political support.
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