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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how prominent theories capture the various ways that the UN affects world politics. Different theories of international relations (IR) cast the UN in distinctive roles, which logically lead scholars to identify distinctive kinds of effects. We identify five roles that the UN might have: as an agent of great powers doing their bidding; as a mechanism for interstate cooperation; as a governor of an international society of states; as a constructor of the social world; and as a legitimation forum. Each role has roots in a well-known theory of international politics. In many, perhaps most, real-world political situations, the UN plays more than one of these roles, but these stylized theoretical arguments about the world body’s influence help discipline our thinking. They force us to be explicit about which effects of the world organization we think are important, what is causing them, and why.

Keywords: international relations theory, international organization theory, constructivism, principal–agent analysis, institutionalism, English School

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