Rationalist explanations for NGOs

Authored by: Youngwan Kim

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


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When non-governmental organizations (NGOs) started to emerge as one of the actors in the world, few rationalists made a study of NGOs. Traditionally, it has been constructivists who have paid more attention to NGOs’ power, focusing on their roles as norm entrepreneurs and transmitters in global society (Finnemore and Sikkink 1998). Because of NGOs’ moral and altruistic characteristics, motivations, and origins, constructivists seem to have more appropriate tools than rationalists (Ahmed and Potter 2006). However, it is a misconception that rationalists are not willing, suitable, capable, or likely to study these organizations. Rationalists do have the ability to analyze NGOs as seemingly rational actors, and may even possess better tools for examining specific aspects of NGOs. Indeed, as NGOs have gained substantially more power and become more significant actors on the international arena, more rationalists have begun to scrutinize NGOs in terms of their nature, behaviors, and influence over other actors.

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