Order and Justice in International Relations

By Rosemary Foot; John Gaddis et al. | Go to book overview

3 Order, Justice, the IMF, and the World Bank

Ngaire Woods

Debates about global economic governance bring the tensions of reconciling order and justice in world affairs into sharp focus. Every economic order makes some claim to justice. Free-market capitalism is said to reward the hard-working and entrepreneurial. Centrally planned economies are said to protect the poor and unfortunate. Equally, at the international level debates rage about order, justice, and the role of governments. What should the IMF, the World Bank, or the World Trade Organization do? What 'public goods' should they produce? Whose interests should they further? And to whom, in the end, are they accountable? Every international organization is built upon some understanding of international order and the requirements of stability in world affairs. So, too, each is underpinned by a vision of justice that guides the broader purposes of the organization and imbues it with legitimacy in carrying out its day-to-day work. But the demands of order and justice in the global economy are extremely difficult to define.

Achieving order in a globalizing economy is becoming ever more complex. International flows of capital, investment, goods, services, information, and corporate organization are increasing in quantity and speed. Managing the global economy was never an easy task, and in the twenty-first century it is one fraught with more fragilities and instabilities than ever before. This was dramatically demonstrated by the economic consequences of the terrorist attacks on the US on 11 September 2001. As stock markets plunged and national airlines faced bankruptcy, policy-makers were forced to reassess the issue of how to intervene effectively in a global economy. Even before September 2001, the experiences of the 1990s had proven that a crisis in Thailand could provoke a financial collapse in Russia that would itself reverberate rapidly into the corridors of an investment fund in Greenwich, Connecticut. When the US hedge

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