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Intergovernmental Organization and the Preservation of Peace, 1816–1964: Some Bivariate Relationships

  • J. David Singer and Michael Wallace


In the three centuries or so since the modern international system began flo take on its present shape, its component members have come together in a wide variety of organizations, for a wide variety of purposes. Those who act on behalf of the nations have turned to international organizations to oversee peace settlements, to strengthen their collective defense capacity, to mediate conflicts between themselves, to discourage interference from the outside, to harmonize their trade relations, to supervise international waterways, to accelerate the production of food, to codify diplomatic practice, and to formalize legal proceedings. Some organizations are established primarily for the neutral purpose of making coexistence possible, others for the more affirmative purposes of positive cooperation. Some have been directed toward the modification of the system, others toward the preservation of its status quo.



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1 See Inis L. Claude, “Economic Development Aid and International Political Stability,” in Robert W. Cox (ed.), International Organization and World Politics, forthcoming.

2 Some will object to the implication here that peace is more or less equivalent to the absence of war and will insist that peace is something more than that; granted, but certainly the absence of war is necessary to the presence of peace.

3 A suggestive discussion of this so-called “ecological fallacy” is in Robinson, W. S., “Ecological Correlations and the Behavior of Individuals,” American Sociological Review, 06 1950 (Vol. 15, No. 3), PP. 351357. We would emphasize, however, that there are certain inferences from groups to their components and vice versa which are quite legitimate and do not run afoul of this fallacy; for a detailed discussion and partial rebuttal, see Singer, J. David, “Man and World Politics: The Psycho-Cultural Interface,” Journal of Social Issues, 07 1968 (Vol. 24, No. 3), pp. 127156.

4 A summary of the project (following largely from the work of Wright and Richardson) is found in Singer, J. David, “Modern International War: From Conjecture to Causality,” in Lepawsky, A. (ed.), Essays in Honor of Quincy Wright (New York: Appleton-Century, in press); see also Wright, Quincy, The Study of War (2 vols; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942), and Richardson, Lewis F., Statistics of Deadly Quarrels (Pittsburgh, Pa; Boxwood Press, 1960).

5 For the basic criteria and die empirical results of our coding rules, see Singer, J. David and Small, Melvin, “The Composition and Status Ordering of the International System: 1815–1940,” World Politics, 01 1966 (Vol. 18, No. 2), pp. 236282; and Russett, Bruce M., Singer, J. David, and Small, Melvin, “National Political Units in the Twentieth Century: A Standardized List,” American Political Science Review, 09 1968 (Vol. 62, No. 3), pp. 932951.

6 We are by no means suggesting that wars other than interstate ones are of no interest or importance or that intergovernmental organization has no relevance for imperial, colonial, and civil wars. To the contrary, we are persuaded that there is indeed a close connection between all types of mass violence in world politics and that in our own age the distinctions between these four types of war will become increasingly blurred. But no intelligent analysis of the relationship between international organization and all forms of war can be made without the inclusion of several additional variables and a finer breakdown of intergovernmental organizations into more discriminating categories. We hope, in due course, to attend to such a follow-up study.

7 While we believe very strongly in the need to spell out, in precise detail, the procedures by which one's data is acquired or generated, along with the line of reasoning which persuades one that the resulting numbers are indeed valid indicators of the concept at hand, space limitations preclude doing this for each of the variables used in this article. Therefore, the reader is referred in each case to the basic study in which the data is presented for the first time. In the case of our war data, see Singer, J. David and Small, Melvin, The Wages of War: A Statistical Handbook., 1816–1965 (New York: John Wiley & Sons, in press). This data is also available in raw form from the International Relations Archive of the Inter-University Consortium for Political Research, University of Michigan.

8 Among those efforts, none of which is quite satisfactory for the purposes intended here, are Robert Angell, C., “An Analysis of Trends in International Organizations,” Peace Research Society (International) Papers, 1965 Vol. 3), pp. 185195; Smoker, Paul, “Nation-State Escalation and International Integration,” Journal of Peace Research, 1967 (Vol. 4), pp. 6175; and Raymond Tanter, “Theories of International Political Development,” in M. Haas (ed.), Behavioral International Politics, forthcoming.

9 See Yearbook of International Organizations (Brussels: Union of International Associations); also The 1,978 International Organizations Founded since the Congress of Vienna (Brussels: Union of International Associations, 1957).

10 For the procedures and the basic data in detail, see Wallace, Michael and Singer, J. David, “Intergovernmental Organization in the Global System, 1815–1964: A Quantitative Description,” International Organization, Spring 1970 (Vol. 29, No. 2), pp. 239287.

11 The rationale and detailed procedures are described fully in Singer, J. David and Small, Melvin, World Politics, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 235282. Originally, we based the attributed diplomatic importance score on the ranks of the missions as well as their sheer number, but the status ordering produced by the simpler index correlated well above.90 with the more complex one for four sample years.

12 Moreover, until the post-1945 period with the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Treaty Organization, no purely collective defense arrangement led to the establishment of institutions which would qualify it as an IGO—regular plenary conference, permanent secretariat, etc.

13 See Satow, Ernest, International Congresses (London: H.M. Stationery, 1920). One might also include all those which led to the formation of alliances, such as the 112 included in J. David Singer and Small, Melvin, “Formal Alliances, 1815–1939: A Quantitative Description,” Journal of Peace Research, 1966 (No. 1), pp. 132, or the considerably larger number included in Geo. Fr. von Martens and his successors, as reported in Recueil des principaux traites, Noutieatt recueil, etc.

14 We assume that most, if not all, criticisms regarding our measures are directed toward the IGO measure and that no serious objection can be raised in regard to our measures of war, beyond the fact (noted earlier) that we exclude imperial, colonial, and civil wars.

15 See Bourquin, Maurice, L'etat souverain et 1'organisation Internationale (Etudes nationales sur 1'organisation Internationale) (New York: Manhattan Publishing Co. [for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace], 1959).

16 In a recent paper, we are reminded that the economic development program of the UN system

is directed toward making national sovereignty meaningful, not reducing it to meaninglessness.

It is aimed at assisting states in achieving genuine and effective statehood, not at promoting their

merger into larger groupings.

See Inis Claude. Even though, in practice, there have been discernible violations of the principles of sovereignty, it is difficult to quarrel with Claude's interpretation of the original motivations.

17 The classic formulation remains Mitrany, David, A Working Peace System (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1966), and the most thorough, if basically sympathetic, critique is Haas, Ernst B., Beyond the Nation-State: Functionalism and International Organization (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1964).

18 For a provocative and detailed exposition and application of the world federalist view, see Clark, Grenville and Sohn, Louis B., World Peace through World Law (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1958).

19 This is a considerable simplification of the postulated model; for a fuller discussion, involving the role of schools, labor groups, mass media, etc., see Singer, J. David, “The Political Matrix of International Conflict,” in McNeil, Elton (ed.), The Nature of Human Conflict (Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall, 1965) and Singer, J. David, “Escalation and Control in International Conflict: A Simple Feedback Model” in General Systems: Yearbook, of the Society for General Systems Research (Vol. 15, in press). It should be noted that this is by no means a conspiratorial model: Everyone merely does what “comes naturally”!

J. David Singer is professor of political science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Michael Wallace is assistant professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. This article is part of a larger study of the correlates of international war, based at the University of Michigan and supported by the Carnegie endowment and the National Science Foundation. The original draft was prepared while the first author was a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Geneva and the coauthor was the recipient of a Canada Council graduate fellowship. To both institutions we want to express our respective thanks. Of considerable help in the acquisition and codification of our data were David Handley, Joan Jensen, and James Connolly; Urs Luterbacher and Larry Arnold conducted the data analyses. An earlier version was presented at the February 1968 meeting of the Carnegie endowment's “Groupe d'6tude sur l'organisation Internationale” in Nice, and we are extremely grateful for the frank and penetrating comments offered by our colleagues on that occasion; a particularly detailed and valuable critique was prepared by John Burton.


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