The Politics of World Polity: Script-writing in International Organizations

Alexander E. Kentikelenis*, Leonard Seabrooke

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    533 Downloads (Pure)


    Sociologists have long examined how states, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), and professional groups interact in order to institutionalize their preferred norms at the transnational level. Yet, explanations of global norm-making that emphasize inter-organizational negotiations do not adequately explain the intra-organizational script-writing—that is, the codification of norms in prescriptive behavioral templates—that underpins this process. This article opens the black box of how scripts emerge and institutionalize within IGOs. Script-writing is a function of both world-cultural frames and material interests, held by different intra-organizational actors: scientific IGO staff and state representatives in governing bodies, respectively. The interplay between these frames and interests determines whether scripts will institutionalize. In this theoretical model, world-cultural and power-political explanations are pertinent to different, mutually informing, and coexisting aspects of the script-writing process. As a corollary of our approach, we present a conceptual framework for the study of intra-IGO script-writing, which is contingent on three normative struggles: among IGO staff, within an IGO’s board of directors, and between the staff and the board. To empirically substantiate our arguments, we examine scripts on taxation and capital controls by the International Monetary Fund. We conclude by discussing the broader implications of our model for the study of international organizations and the engines of global norm-making.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAmerican Sociological Review
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)1065-1092
    Number of pages28
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


    • Global governance
    • Global norms
    • Policy scripts
    • International organizations
    • International Monetary Fund
    • Taxation
    • Capital controls

    Cite this