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International Organization

International organization (IO), one of the main subfields of international relations, is the study of how states and other actors in the international system interact—whether in cooperation or conflict—over issues that are not market-based and in which disagreements will not be resolved by the threat of force. The first criterion distinguishes IO from the subfield of international political economy (IPE), while the second criterion distinguishes IO from the study of international security (IS). IO addresses much of the day-to-day activities of states and non-state actors. It examines the conditions under which they can gain from cooperation; the challenges of cooperation, including the enforcement of agreements; the nature of bargaining and the sources of bargaining power; and the design and function of different types of international institutions. 

Many concepts in IO are drawn from microeconomics, including collective action problems, transactions costs, principal-agent problems. The subfield also connects to sociology and psychology, mainly through the lens of constructivism, and to the theory and practice of international law. A myriad of policy issues in international relations fall under the study of IO: humanitarian intervention, immigration, environmental protection, arms control, elections observing, and many more. Students considering careers that address such issues in the State Department, international organizations like the United Nations, or international non-governmental organizations like Oxfam, will benefit greatly from classes in IO at Lehigh.

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