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Related Powers of the United Nations: Reconsidering Conflict Management of International Organisations in Ontological Light

Touko Piiparinen
Review of International Studies
Vol. 35, No. 3 (Jul., 2009), pp. 675-699
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20542809
Page Count: 25
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Related Powers of the United Nations: Reconsidering Conflict Management of International Organisations in Ontological Light
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Abstract

The mainstream literature on the UN has been underlain by a methodological individualist philosophy, according to which all social phenomena, and particularly the functioning of all social institutions, should always be seen as resulting from the decisions of individual actors, as if the whole (organisation) was never more than the sum of its parts (members of an organisation). Such a fallacy has been denounced by social constructivist approaches which account for the existence of certain emergent properties of the UN, such as collective identity, which cannot be reduced to its constituent units, namely, states. These accounts, however, have offered a partial picture of the holistic understanding of the UN, as they have failed to comprehend, or perhaps simply ignored the causal powers of such emergent properties. This article enhances constructivist approaches by dint of the critical realist models of Synchronic Emergent Powers Materialism and Transformational Model of Social Activity. The value added of these two models in comprehending the powers associated with the UN Security Council lies in their ability to function as instructive metaphors; they allow for the independent and irreducible existence of certain mechanisms by which the Council controls international conflicts but nevertheless recognises that these can only emerge from the mutual interaction between agents (states) and structure (UN institutions).

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