International Monetary Cooperation since Bretton Woods

The George Washington Journal of International Law and Economics, January 1, 1996 | Go to article overview

International Monetary Cooperation since Bretton Woods


International Monetary Cooperation Since Bretton Woods, by Harold James. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996. Pp. 620. $45.00 (hardcover).

In commemoration of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF or Fund) fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Bretton Woods Conference, the IMF commissioned this comprehensive study on postwar international monetary cooperation.

Written by an independent financial and economic historian, Harold James, the book represents the IMF's efforts to present information to a wide audience about the Fund's purposes and its role in fostering world economic cooperation. The report is intended to give both laypersons and financial institution policymakers a deeper understanding of all of the institution's goals and responsibilities including: promoting a stable international monetary system and balanced economic growth; assisting member countries with balance-of-payments problems; supporting member countries' economic adjustment and reform efforts; and finally, serving as the world's safety net of last resort over the past fifty years.

In writing his study, the author had full access to the Fund's archives and staff. James conducted numerous interviews with individuals who played key roles in the institution's history. The book weaves the history of the IMF with world economic developments that occurred after the Second World War. The information provided by the author is intended not only to explain the processes involved with international finance, but also to make cooperation more widely acceptable and easier to implement.

The study begins by looking at historical features of the world before the IMF was created. The author explains that it is necessary to understand this history so that the reader has a clear understanding of why an institutionalized approach, namely the IMF, was needed to deal with the developing world economy. The IMF was created at Bretton Woods, but almost immediately the cold war between the Soviet Union and the West split the industrialized world into two economic camps. Until 1971, nonetheless, economic systems enjoyed a period of relative stability. In 1971 this peaceful existence began to change because of the United States's decision to abandon fixed exchange rates. …

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