Designing Police: Interpol and the Study of Change in International Organizations
On those rare occasions when scholars of international organizations (IOs) consider the issue of change, they typically highlight the centrality of states. Although states are important for understanding when and why there is a change in the tasks, mandate, and design of IO, IOs themselves can initiate change. Drawing from sociological institutional and resource dependence approaches, in this article we treat IOs as strategic actors that can choose among a set of strategies in order to pursue their goals in response to changing environmental pressures and constraints that potentially threaten their relevance and resource base. We delineate six strategies—acquiescence, compromise, avoidance, defiance, manipulation, and strategic social construction, and suggest that the strategic choice by IOs is contingent on the level of both organizational insecurity and the congruence between the content of environmental pressures and organizational culture. We emphasize how IOs must make a trade-off between acquiring the resources necessary to survive and be secure, on the one hand, and maintaining autonomy, on the other. We apply this framework to the case of Interpol, investigating how different calculations of these trade-offs led Interpol staff to adopt different strategies depending on its willingness to accept, resist, or initiate changes that demand conformity to external pressures.