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Exclusive expertise: the boundary work of international organizations.

  • Academic Journal
  • Review of International Political Economy. Apr2022, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p453-476. 24p.
  • Scholars of global governance tend to agree that international organizations (IOs) enjoy expert authority because they provide applicable specialist knowledge for policymaking. This view implies that IOs' expert status rests more on the contents than the presentation of their knowledge. Integrating the sociological concept of 'boundary work' into a Goffmanian symbolic-dramaturgical perspective, this article articulates a competing interpretation that recovers the relational and performative aspects of expert authority. I argue that, in settings where spheres of authority overlap, boundary work by IOs serves two loosely coupled functions: demarcation and cooperation. While IOs demarcate their jurisdictions on the 'frontstage' to craft perceptions of exclusive expertise, they closely cooperate on the 'backstage' to mitigate internal resource constraints. I illustrate this argument by examining the relationship between the International Monetary Fund (IMF or Fund) and the World Bank (or Bank) around the joint Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP). Based on elite interviews and relevant documents, the analysis shows that the IMF's frontstage boundary work entailed promoting FSAP reforms and launching a new surveillance initiative without the World Bank. Yet while demarcation can augment an IO's expertise, it risks poisoning inter-organizational relationships. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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