Constructing the International Economy

Constructing the International Economy

Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Constructing the International Economy
    Book Description:

    Focusing empirically on how political and economic forces are always mediated and interpreted by agents, both in individual countries and in the international sphere, Constructing the International Economy sets out what such constructions and what various forms of constructivism mean, both as ways of understanding the world and as sets of varying methods for achieving that understanding. It rejects the assumption that material interests either linearly or simply determine economic outcomes and demands that analysts consider, as a plausible hypothesis, that economies might vary substantially for nonmaterial reasons that affect both institutions and agents' interests.

    Constructing the International Economy portrays the diversity of models and approaches that exist among constructivists writing on the international political economy. The authors outline and relate several different arguments for why scholars might attend to social construction, inviting the widest possible array of scholars to engage with such approaches. They examine points of terminological or theoretical confusion that create unnecessary barriers to engagement between constructivists and nonconstructivist work and among different types of constructivism. This book provides a tool kit that both constructivists and their critics can use to debate how much and when social construction matters in this deeply important realm.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5824-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Constructing the International Economy
    (pp. 1-20)
    Rawi Abdelal, Mark Blyth and Craig Parsons

    The world is, as they say, complicated. The world economy is especially so. Unpredicted events often influence markets in improbable ways. Individuals and organizations—firms, governments—surprise observers by behaving in ways that appear contrary to their presumed material interests as events defy the categories and concepts we construct to contain them. Crises recur with worrisome frequency. As the world internationalizes, these complications become more profound. Yet it would be difficult to find evidence of these complications in much of the scholarly study of international political economy (IPE). Scholars of IPE have arrived at a comfortable certainty about how the...

  6. Part I MEANING

    • 1 Shrinking the State: Neoliberal Economists and Social Spending in Latin America
      (pp. 23-46)
      Jeffrey M. Chwieroth

      The reduction of the size of the welfare state is one of the defining elements of the wave of policy reform that swept Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s (Huber 1996; Inter-American Development Bank 1991; Mesa-Lago 1994:12). This trend toward state shrinking begs the question, what accounts for this dramatic change in the size of the welfare state in these countries? Moreover, what explains variation in a government’s commitment to social spending?

      In the literature on the welfare state in developing countries, two general explanations have emerged. One explanation attributes welfare state retrenchment in Latin America to constraints imposed...

    • 2 The Meaning of Development: Constructing the World Bank’s Good Governance Agenda
      (pp. 47-67)
      Catherine Weaver

      Today the apparent sine qua non of development theory and practice is good governance. The notion is embraced in the official publications and speeches of the international aid community as the foundation, if not the panacea, for uprooting persistent poverty within societies. Contemporary development theories present good governance as the essential precondition for a market-friendly environment needed to attract investment and ensure sustainable growth (Burnside and Dollar 2002; World Bank 2007a). Moreover, good governance is seen to be the institutional means by which the poor can achieve the most basic human security, become empowered to exercise their voice, and overcome...

    • 3 Institutionalized Hypocrisy and the Politics of Agricultural Trade
      (pp. 68-90)
      Mlada Bukovansky

      Agricultural trade is often seen as a policy area where short-term self-interest (protectionism) is pursued by those who are able to do so (the rich), cloaked in a hypocrisy that trumpets the value of liberalization. But the meanings of agriculture and of protection are highly contested among different parties to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Such differences are especially stark between the developed and developing countries, though increasingly the developed countries, and especially the United States and the European Union, find themselves just as much at odds. Hypocrisy is rife in the WTO, and not limited to the rich and...


    • 4 Frames, Scripts, and the Making of Regional Trade Areas
      (pp. 93-113)
      Francesco Duina

      The end of the cold war brought instability into the world. The bipolar order was over. Countries nervously looked around for new relationships and alliances. Most found some security in regional trade areas (RTA). In 1990, there were fewer than forty RTAs in existence. Today there are nearly two hundred. For the purposes of this chapter, we can define RTAs as spaces where several, usually neighboring, countries decide to merge parts or the whole of their economies. To achieve this goal, they remove some or most tariff and nontariff barriers to trade so as to liberalize the movement of some...

    • 5 Imagined Economies: Constructivist Political Economy, Nationalism, and Economic-based Sovereignty Movements in Russia
      (pp. 114-134)
      Yoshiko M. Herrera

      What is the economic basis of nationalism? If we consider historical experience we see that nationalist sovereignty movements have occurred in both rich and poor regions—for example, Catalonia in Spain, and Chechnya in Russia. Despite a large comparative literature and a wealth of case studies, to date there is no definitive explanation of how economic factors affect movements for greater sovereignty. In other words, regions with comparable material conditions have not systematically made similar demands for greater sovereignty. We therefore face the question of how sovereignty movements are related to objective material conditions, or how similar material conditions could...


    • 6 Firm Interests in Uncertain Times: Business Lobbying in Multilateral Service Liberalization
      (pp. 137-154)
      Cornelia Woll

      Uncertainty is one of the most constant facts of life, and all social sciences have dedicated entire libraries to the subject. Yet treatments of what is uncertain and how and whether this uncertainty can be resolved vary widely, even if we consider only economic activity. Uncertainty can refer to our lack of knowledge or difficulties in categorizing, the ambiguities of social settings, the risks we face, or, more fundamentally, our inability to foresee the future. In its broadest sense, uncertainty can be used to speak about all the different paths to constructivist scholarship presented in this book. For the scholars...

    • 7 Trade-offs and Trinities: Social Forces and Monetary Cooperation
      (pp. 155-172)
      Wesley W. Widmaier

      What explains variation in interests in monetary cooperation? More specifically, what explains key post–World War II shifts, such as the rise and demise of the use of incomes policies to minimize uncertainty regarding wage, price, and currency trends?¹ In recent decades, support for varied forms of wage, price, or currency cooperation has been undermined by self-reinforcing beliefs that policymakers face inevitable trade-offs between either full employment or monetary stability. These beliefs in the inevitable nature of such trade-offs are premised on assumptions that appeals to private restraint are incapable of containing fundamental macroeconomic pressures, as agents will reject such...


    • 8 Moby Dick or Moby Doll? Discourse, or How to Study the “Social Construction of” All the Way Down
      (pp. 175-193)
      Charlotte Epstein

      Until the late twentieth century, the world was largely a whaling world. Whales comprised a strategic raw material, a fuel and a food. By 1982, commercial whaling was banned worldwide under a moratorium proclaimed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Today this ban, passed initially as a temporary measure to shore up the dwindling resources of an endangered trade, has become a permanent fixture of the whaling regime, and the prospect of the trade’s revival is ever more remote. How did the world shift so drastically from being one where hardly an eyelid batted when a whale was slaughtered, to...

    • 9 Bringing Power Back In: The IMF’s Constructivist Strategy in Critical Perspective
      (pp. 194-210)
      Jacqueline Best

      One could be forgiven for assuming that constructivism has little place in the study of economic relations or for thinking that at most a rather cautious constructivism is appropriate in such cases. After all, economic theory has provided the inspiration for the very rationalist approaches that constructivists seek to challenge, including neoliberal institutionalist and neorealist theory in international relations and rationalist institutionalism in comparative politics. I argue precisely the opposite in this chapter and suggest that the study of economic relations, especially political economic relations, not only requires constructivist analysis but actually demands a much deeper and more critical constructivism...

    • 10 The Ethical Investor, Embodied Economies, and International Political Economy
      (pp. 211-226)
      Paul Langley

      The Social Investment Forum (2006) claims that by 2005, one in ten dollars invested in the United States qualified as “socially responsible investment” (SRI). While this is largely a consequence of the activities of institutional investors, primarily public and multiemployer funds that target local communities and enterprises for investment and screen their investments on the basis of certain criteria, the rise of SRI is also a story of the emergence of individual “ethical investors.” The ethical investor typically invests in stock market mutual funds that screen investments according to various negative or positive standards. The former leads to the omission...

    • Re-constructing IPE: Some Conclusions Drawn from a Crisis
      (pp. 227-240)
      Rawi Abdelal, Mark Blyth and Craig Parsons

      Though the world’s plunge into its deepest recession since the 1930s has been horrifyingly rapid, surely many people have experienced the crisis as a bit like Alice’s slow fall. While very little changed in 2008 in their capabilities to design, refine, produce, and sell, or in their desires to work and consume, somehow they found themselves drifting inexorably away from “normal” economic exchange and growth, wondering where they might be headed. As John Maynard Keynes might have observed, as he did in The Means to Prosperity (1933) during the Great Depression, “immaterial devices of the mind” have, in part, brought...

  10. References
    (pp. 241-282)
  11. Index
    (pp. 283-294)