World Politics and International Economics

By C. Fred Bergsten; Lawrence B. Krause | Go to book overview

Reflections on the economics and politics of international economic organizations

Lawrence B. Krause and Joseph S. Nye

International organizations, it is sometimes said, are always designed to prevent the last war. An analogous problem besets economic institutions. The inability of some existing international economic organizations to deal with the current. problems in their domains is all too apparent. Two of the institutional pillars of the postwar Bretton Woods system, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), were shaken in 1971 and are still suffering from severe malaise. The political and economic conditions that led to their formation at the end of the Second World War have changed, calling into question the political and intellectual foundation upon which they were constructed. In the aftermath of the 1973 energy crisis, meetings of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and a special session of the General Assembly have been the scene of demands by poor countries for a new economic order, but the meaning of the phrase has been ambiguous and the formula has impeded rather than promoted agreement.1

The purpose of this volume and of this essay is not to design a new economic order. Rather, it is to bring together the elements of political and economic analysis that must inform constructive thought about a new economic order and the role that international organizations can play in it. The marriage is not an easy one. The tools of the dominant neoclassical economic paradigm are highly refined but better suited to comparative statics than to explaining social dynamics. The tools of political science are imprecise and in some cases overly constrained by narrow definitions of actors, goals, and instruments. Nonetheless, some effort at applying

Lawrence B. Krause is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and is coeditor of this volume. Joseph S. Nye is a professor of political science at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The views in this essay are those of the authors and should not be attributed to any organization. A number of passages in this essay draw on ideas developed jointly with Robert O. Keohane. The authors are grateful for his comments on an earlier version as well as to C. Fred Bergsten, Benjamin J. Cohen, Richard Cooper, and Frank Holzman.

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1
At the 57th session of ECOSOC in July 1974, for example, agreement on the creation of a UN commission on multinational corporations was impeded by (among other things) disagreements over the verbal formula a new economic order.

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