The Second International: The Impact of Domestic Factors on International Organization Dysfunction

Published date01 October 2014
Date01 October 2014
The Second International: The Impact of Domestic Factors on International Organization Dysfunction
P O L I T I C A L S T U D I E S : 2 0 1 4 VO L 6 2 , 6 6 9 – 6 8 5
doi: 10.1111/1467-9248.12062
The Second International: The Impact of
Domestic Factors on International
Organization Dysfunction

Meral Ugur Cinar
Kursat Cinar
Bilkent University
Ohio State University
This article explores the role of domestic factors in international organization dysfunction, exemplified by the failure
of the Second International to agree on a common stance and policy for the prevention of the First World War.
Focusing on the French and German socialist parties, the two most powerful forces in the Second International, it
assesses how domestic factors, such as differences in the dependency on the electorate, internal party structure and
party–trade union relationships affected the policy preferences of these socialist parties. It concludes that these
domestic differences were the source of discrepancy and lack of orchestrated action among the members of the Second
International. As a result of these differences, the Second International failed to coordinate and produce a binding
resolution that would commit its members to a uniform action against war, hence culminating in international
organization dysfunction.
Keywords: Second International; international organizations; domestic factors; IOs;
In the years preceding the First World War, the Second International1 was the primary
champion of international peace. It was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1913, and
its candidacy was favorably held until 1914. No pacifist organization could compare with
the International, either in size or scope of activity (Haupt, 1972, p. 1).The International,
which was considered ‘the most important anti-militarist political force in the world’,
declared ‘war on war’ and ‘believed itself capable of mobilizing an army of five million
organized workers in the active struggle for peace’ (Haupt, 1972, p. 1). It condemned war
in numerous congresses and resolutions.Yet to everyone’s shock, the leading parties of the
International, the German and French socialists, endorsed the First World War by voting in
favor of war credits. Given the internationalist and anti-war commitments of the Second
International, which will be further elaborated in this article, how are we to understand this
In this article, we will show that differences in domestic political context, particularly
variation in electoral success, internal party structure and party–trade union relationships
resulted in a discrepancy of policy preferences and prevented the Second International from
producing a binding resolution, thus culminating in the dysfunction of this international
organization. Within the Second International, we focus on French and German socialist
parties, which were by far the most powerful forces in the organization (Cole, 1967, p. xii).
The German Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) was the most powerful party
(Huberman and Lewchuk, 2003, p. 22), both in size and in theoretical influence and next
to it came the French socialist parties, namely Parti Socialiste de France and Parti Socialiste
before their unification in 1905, and Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière
© 2013 The Authors. Political Studies © 2013 Political Studies Association

(SFIO) after 1905. French and German socialist parties with their different traditions and
their interaction are crucial when studying the Second International ( Joll, 1966, p. 3).
In what follows, we will first provide a theoretical framework for our analysis. We will
then discuss the central role of war prevention for the Second International and show how
the failure to come up with an orchestrated action against war constitutes an organization
dysfunction. We will then analyze how domestic factors affected the dysfunction of the
Second International. Our conclusion will wrap up our findings and discuss the implica-
tions and relevance of the lessons drawn from the Second International for the contem-
porary debates of international organizations and peace.
Domestic Politics and International Organization Dysfunction
While international relations (IR) scholars have started to examine below the state level
(such as domestic politics and institutions) and above the state level (such as international
cooperation and institutions) in recent decades, fewer studies have looked at the interaction
of domestic and international actors (Snidal and Thompson, 2003, p. 197) even though we
can see a trend of growth in this literature.
The extant literature on domestic politics’ role in the international arena provides
valuable insights into understanding phenomena such as foreign policy, international
conflict and cooperation, as well as outcomes in international trade policies. For instance,
Robert Putnam (1988, p. 454) points to the impact of political parties on the win-sets of
different countries, specifically underlining the significance of left-wing parties for the
prospects of cooperation. Putnam (1988, p. 434) also avers that representatives of key interest
groups enter into the decision-making mechanism at the domestic level, which in turn
influence the international stance of the country. Examples of this kind include the
blocking of ratification of certain international cooperation agreements in areas such as
trade by domestic labor unions. Furthermore, Andrew Moravcsik (1997, p. 519) suggests
that we need to disaggregate state interest in foreign policy by looking at different domestic
elements such as courts, central banks, executives, regulatory bureaucracies and ruling
parties. Moravcsik (1997, p. 519) avows that societal pressures transmitted by representative
institutions such as interest groups alter state preferences, which in turn affect the likelihood
of conflict and/or cooperation.2
The fertile ground that has begun to burgeon in the IR literature about the impact of
domestic factors falls short when it comes to the subject of international organizations
(IOs). Much less attention has been paid to the interaction between domestic politics and
IOs. As John Mearsheimer’s (1994) overview of realism’s and institutionalism’s stance on
international institutions suggests, neither of them pays sufficient attention to the influence
of domestic factors on international institutions. Realists see the state as a monolithic actor
and take state power and interests in an IO as given, rather than seeing these as accumu-
lations of different interests shaped by domestic politics. Institutionalists, on the other hand,
focus on the international institutions as independent variables (Mearsheimer, 1994, p. 7),
again not paying enough attention to their interrelationship with domestic politics (see also
Martin and Simmons, 1998).
Even more comprehensive studies such as those by Catherine Weaver (2007) and
Michael Barnett and Martha Finnemore (1999) do not pay sufficient attention to the role
© 2013 The Authors. Political Studies © 2013 Political Studies Association

of domestic factors in IO dysfunction. In their broad review of IO dysfunction, Barnett and
Finnemore (1999) come up with a typology of the sources of IO dysfunction. According
to this typology, the sources can be categorized in two dimensions:‘(1) whether they locate
the cause of IO dysfunction inside or outside the organization, and (2) whether they trace
the causes to material or cultural forces’ (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999, p. 716). Barnett and
Finnemore suggest that material sources can be seen as internal constraints, as is the case
with the pursuit of material interests within an organization and competition among
subunits over material resources, or they can be seen as external constraints, as is the case
with state preferences and constraints. On the other hand, cultural factors can also be seen
as internal constraints resulting from the internal culture of the organizations themselves or
external constraints such as international norms.
In addition to providing a typology of the existing literature on IO dysfunction, Barnett
and Finnemore (1999, p. 699, p. 715) also criticize most of the IO literature for focusing too
much on the rationale of IOs and on their achievements, such as responding to collective
action problems, problems of incomplete information, transaction costs and other barriers
to Pareto efficiency and welfare improvement for their members, and for neglecting the
actual behavior of IOs including undesirable outcomes such as their dysfunction.This lack
of attention can further explain the inattentiveness to domestic factors in IO dysfunction.
While the theories overviewed by Barnett and Finnemore, as well as their own analysis
of IO dysfunction, present various angles of IO dysfunction, they do not discuss the issue
of how domestic factors affect the shortcomings and dysfunction of IOs. It is particularly
the lack of sufficient systematic treatment of the role of domestic factors in IOs and in their
dysfunction more specifically that we want to address in this article. By IO dysfunction, we
mean a situation where an IO fails to pursue its primary mission(s) and goal(s). We will
use the Second International to analyze the way in which domestic factors affect IO
War, Peace and the Second International
The failure of the Second International to come up...

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