Capital Ideas: The IMF and the Rise of Financial Liberalization

By Jeffrey M. Chwieroth | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO

Normative Change from Within

THIS BOOK delves deeply into inner workings of the IMF, opening up the black box of the organization so that we can better grasp how intraorganizational processes, in addition to the influence of member states and formal rules, shape organizational behavior and change. In the first part of this chapter, I critically review state-centric and PA approaches. While offering useful insights, these approaches cannot shed adequate light on how IOs, endowed with considerable autonomy, approach their various tasks. The narrow focus of these approaches on material incentives and information leads them to overlook how the staff, their beliefs, and their debates can shape how IOs work and evolve.

In the second part of this chapter, I therefore break with these approaches, viewing the staff's collectively shared beliefs, shaped through ongoing processes of interaction, as a critical determinant of IO behavior. But I by no means imply that IO staff share one uniform position. On the contrary, a key objective of this book is to bring to light not only internal processes that shape the adoption of norms but also the internal debates, oft neglected in the existing literature, that shape how norms are interpreted and applied. Although I build on sociological and constructivist approaches, I do not adopt them uncritically. I instead seek to augment their overly structuralist and static accounts with a more strategic conception of agency and a more dynamic account of how normative change occurs “from within” IOs.

In exploring the productive power of the economics profession, I emphasize that it can serve as an agent of social construction. The shift within economics in the 1960s and 1970s toward viewing capital account liberalization as desirable played an important part in triggering normative change within the IMF. Common professional training and administrative recruitment patterns, which brought new recruits exposed to this belief into the Fund, helped to foster within it widespread belief in the longrun desirability of capital account liberalization. But professionalization and administrative recruitment also fostered subcultures within the Fund, as staff members, though sharing a belief in the long-run desirability of capital freedom, brought with them different interpretations and applications of the norm that reflected ongoing debates within the economics

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