Do stated goals matter? : regional institutions in East Asia and the dynamic of unstated goals
Date of Issue2010
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
Do stated goals matter for the agents of regional institutions in East Asia? This question arises from an empirical puzzle described by the endurance of extant institutions and instances of institutional creation despite a poor record of goal accomplishment in the region. This paper surveys the stated goals of East Asian institutions, assesses the quality of these goals in terms of their conceptualization and means-ends relationships, examines the record of goal accomplishment and employs the insights of sociological institutionalism to argue that regional multilateral institutions in East Asia, in varying degrees, approximate to “institutionalized organizations” which depend less on the efficient fulfillment of stated ends and more on the adoption of the rational myths of their environment for legitimacy and survival. Besides the existence of ambiguous goals, a rich historical experience of institutional isomorphism and the evidence of “decoupling”, these institutions are not rational organizations—despite their claims to “concrete actions” and “efficiency” in organizational discourse—because of the absence of discrete Weberian bureaucracies, which, in turn, makes them vicariously live off the organizational apparatus of national bureaucracies. The absence of a Weberian bureaucracy, then, forms the context in which national political and bureaucratic elites pursue a range of ‘unstated goals’ or those latent and unacknowledged goals whose formal recognition in stated organizational discourse would cause “organizational stress”. The paper hypothesizes that national elites use regional institutions for three unstated goals: a) for domestic power consolidation, b) gaining legitimacy via association with international normative structures and discourses, and c) for pursuing a range of realpolitik practices that emerge from their socialization in realpolitik ideology.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Economic development::East Asia
RSIS Working Paper ; 199/10