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  • Eskelinen, T.; Ylönen, Matti (2020)
    The contemporary world continues to suffer from a number of social problems that are global in scope but impact the Global South disproportionately. While broad and coordinated policy responses to overcome these problems exist, such policies are not shaped solely by the political will to address the problems. On the contrary, their content largely depends on how societies in general and the social problems in particular are routinely explained and conceptualized. We refer to these as explanatory tendencies or paradigms of explanation. As complex problems always have multiple root causes with long causal chains, explanations of these causes necessarily involve some assumptions about relevant causalities. Typically, the main choice in explaining international politics relates to the extent to which social phenomena should be explained by domestic institutions, decisions and events. Social science in general has been noted to have a bias toward a "nationalist" approach to explanation [Beck, 2007; Brenner, 1999; Gore, 1993; Pogge, 2002]. This means treating the state as the primary and even sufficient object of analysis, so that problems are explained by the malfunctioning institutions and misinformed policies of states. Such explanatory biases become naturalized in everyday politics and social analysis [Amin, 2004]. While this has been widely discussed as an epistemological issue, the interplay between international organizations and explanatory tendencies has received less attention. The present article addresses this gap. We argue that explanatory tendencies and biases should not be treated exclusively as an epistemological matter. They need to be accompanied by an analysis of the role of international organizations as both influenced by an explanatory tendency and upholding it. Paradigms of explanation are reflected in the priorities and relative powers of international organizations, as their very structure can reflect particular explanatory tendencies. As an example, we will use the ascent and descent of the United Nations work on the power of multinational enterprises.