To Reform the World: International Organizations and the Making of Modern States

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Book Review

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Disagreements regarding the appropriate scope of the mandates of international organizations (IOs), played out in legal doctrines such as implied powers, have long been a staple of international institutional law. And debates about the relationship between states and international organizations and concerns about IO ‘mission creep’ have long pervaded the international relations literature. Guy Fiti Sinclair, in this learned, thoughtful, and well-researched book, argues that the expansion of the powers of international organizations over the course of the 20th century was inextricably linked with those organizations’ attempts to ‘mak[e] and remak[e] ... modern states on a broadly Western model’ (at 283). In case studies of three organizations spanning the bulk of the 20th century – the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations, and the World Bank – he details the liberal policies and programmes that those institutions sought to promote and pursue as well as the interpretations and arguments developed by their officials, particularly their lawyers, and subsequently affirmed by judges who justified those goals and the powers designed to implement them.


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