Tag: IPE

WPTPN: The Rise of Embedded Nationalism

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Moonhawk Kim, who was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Colorado Boulder from 2007 to 2016. His research focused on the politics of international trade institutions. This post first appeared on his blog To Be Analyzed.

Ruggie’s (1982) “embedded liberalism” provided the framework for understanding the nature of the domestic social contract underlying the post-World War II international economic arrangement for the last three-and-a-half decades. As a alternate to the “disembedded liberalism” (Polanyi 1944) model of the gold standard era, this model described and prescribed the importance of domestic political economic stability over maintenance of the liberal international economic order. In the decades since Ruggie’s article, the potential threat to the stability of embedded liberalism scholars anticipated was a return to disembbeded liberalism, the model of hyperglobalization at the cost of domestic political economic stability.

One way to interpret the triumph of Donald Trump is that the long-standing social bargain within the U.S. underlying Pax Americana—and thus the whole post-war international order—has unraveled. The bargain is moving toward hyper-priotization of domestic political economy over a liberal international economy. This interpretation is consistent with the broad observation about the characteristics of voters who voted for Trump (losers from globalization, broadly defined to include those that confront a high level of economic uncertainty if not low income) and Trump’s nationalistic economic policies, now taking the first step in the form of withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Two interrelated components are necessary for maintaining a stable domestic-international bargain. One, the international benefits of a liberal world economy—the gains from trade—has to be domestically distributed. Economists have always recognized that the gains are at the aggregate level. Those who gain from economic globalization (”winners“) need to compensate those who are hurt from it (”losers“) and mitigate the latters’ cost of adjusting to the new economic reality. Two, the domestic population needs to intuitively and/or rationally understand the nature of the domestic-international bargain and continually support to reinforce and sustain the international arrangement.

I have some ideas on why these two components unraveled over time:

  1. A Paradox of Stability: When an international order works—works really well, as it did in the post-war era—it becomes taken for granted. People and states simply come to think “this is how it is” and fail to realize the institutions and the effort underlying it. That’s actually the indication of the most institutionalized institutions, at least according to sociologists. However, when the taken-for-grantedness leads to desires for dismantling the institution in question, it becomes a problem. (This is akin to the vaccination issue—”Oh, I don’t have to vaccinate against pertussis, because pertussis is not a problem anymore!“

    A related aspect of this is that people/leaders also come to disregard the strategic interaction underlying the stability of the existing order. Other countries have been keeping their trade open because the U.S. has been. If the U.S. becomes more protectionist, other countries will not keep their trade open. The U.S. doesn’t just import; it also exports.

  2. Disjuncture from the Historical Moment: Much of the post-war international order was shaped by the experience states endured during the interwar years, in particular the Great Depression. As the length of time between the historical moment and the current period increases, the lessons fade—people/leaders who experienced it die and new ones never learn it. (What about the Great Recession? See #1 above.)
  3. Disembedded Liberalism: #1 and #2 led to an increasing emphasis on the liberal economic order over domestic political economic stability. The gap in real income growth in the U.S. over the last four decades is the best evidence of this. Certainly not all wealth resulted from a liberal international economy alone—technological progress played an important role—but the gains were not distributed in ways to ensure long-term domestic stability.
  4. Complexity of Globalization: I use the term “globalization” as a shorthand for lowering of costs of transportation and communication, thereby increasing the density of interaction among people. These changes are mainly facilitated by technological innovations that lower the costs. As a result of this, the global system becomes more complex in two ways.

    First, causal chains in large-scale outcomes become harder to trace. When causation has to be inferred rather than perceived, people reject both the process of inference (science) and the assertions of causality. This opens up the possibility of phenomena like “alternative facts” to arise.

    Second, differences across individuals, groups, and countries—which have always existed—become revealed and more likely to generate conflicts. Simultaneous with this increased exposure to diversity, the same technology that increases that exposure facilitates individuals and groups to communicate and organize with those that are likeminded (e.g., cable news channels). In short, globalization strengthens intra-group cohesion while increasing inter-group conflicts.

So what happens now? The next four years will be an interesting test of Keohane’s (1984) thesis that international institutions can in fact successfully persist and maintain order after hegemonic decline. Of course, with the current regime in the U.S., we are witnessing less of a decline and more of a willful rejection in alleged service of domestic political economic priorities. The absurdly misinformed protectionist policies by the administration will certainly end up causing a great deal of economic harm to the very groups it is claiming to be helping.

The Duck of Minerva’s WPTPN group is still seeking guest contributions. If you are interested in writing a post and have research expertise in international relations, international political economy, foreign policy, comparative politics, or cognate fields please see this post for more information.

WPTPN: The Construction of a Chinese Hierarchic Order in the Global South

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Ahsan Butt, an Assistant Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. His book, Secession and Security: Explaining State Strategy against Separatists, will be published next year by Cornell University Press.

The future of a U.S.-led liberal order in Europe and East Asia has attracted considerable attention in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, given his distaste for internationalism signaled by heavy criticism of NATO and the TPP. Much of the post-election conjecture has focused on whether China will step into this anticipated breach, with its maneuvering on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Asia-Pacific alternative to TPP, taken as a portentous sign that China will seek to displace US leadership in the region (it bears remembering that China was not behind RCEP, but an addition to it). In this post, however, I will focus on the prospect of a Chinese order in less-developed regions of the world, a concern that would have existed even for a President H.R. Clinton.

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WPTPN: The Loss of the American Narrative

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Aida A. Hozić is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Florida. This blogpost draws on a chapter prepared for Hegemony and Leadership in the International Political Economy, edited by Alan Cafruny and Herman M. Schwartz (Lynne Rienner, forthcoming).

There is a moment at the end of every regime when the relationship between all hitherto accepted modes of representation and reality seems to collapse.  Regimes start running on fumes when well-established political rituals appear devoid of meaning, when institutionalized practices are revealed as arbitrary, when beloved symbols of power suddenly have no referent, pointing instead at power’s empty seat. In short, regimes collapse when narratives that have held them together are no longer believable.

America, I would argue, might be rapidly approaching that point.

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The Anglosphere, Dominance in Global Finance, and the Consequences of Brexit


This is a guest post by Jan Fichtner, Postdoctoral Researcher in the CORPNET project at the Department of Political Science of the University of Amsterdam.

So far, International Relations and International Political Economy have not dedicated much attention to analyzing the group of the Anglophone countries together (notable exceptions are Andrew Gamble, Jeremy Green, Kees van der Pijl, and Srdjan Vucetic). Instead, the vast majority of IR and IPE approaches treats the English-speaking countries and jurisdictions solely on the grounds where they are located geographically: the Unites States and Canada are grouped as ‘North America’, Australia and New Zealand are seen as part of ‘Asia-Pacific’, the British dependent territories of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands (which all act as important offshore financial centers) are usually categorized under the heading ‘Caribbean’, and finally most analyses treat Ireland and the United Kingdom as part of ‘Europe’ or the European Union. The latter is going to change in the coming years as a slim majority of Britons has voted for ‘Brexit’. Therefore, the UK will eventually leave the EU, although the details of this historic divorce are far from clear. This comes after many years of widespread skepticism against the EU and continental ‘Europe’, which has been fueled constantly by many British politicians and certain Australian-American-owned media outlets.

In a recent article in the Review of International Studies (free access through August 2016), I have argued that the Anglophone countries generally have much more in common with the other English-speaking states than with neighboring countries – Peter Hall and David Soskice as well as Bruno Amable have found indications that the Anglophone economies form one distinct socio-economic model. Moreover, the English-speaking countries are deeply integrated by their extremely close cooperation in the highly sensitive field of signals intelligence (the so-called ‘Five-Eyes’), which is unparalleled in the world. Thus, it makes sense to analyze the Anglosphere countries together. This is especially pertinent in the pivotal field of global finance.

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APSA Special: Social Movements and the Politics of Markets

So, in the interests of shameless self-promotion, I just wanted to mention that if you are attending APSA and stop by the Cambridge U Press booth, there should be copies of my new book with Ethan Kapstein entitled AIDS Drugs for All: Social Movements and Market Transformations. Pick up a copy, or order a hard or softback version here for a 20% discount (an e-version should be out soon). Below the fold, I’ll describe the book and unpack the argument, but I wanted to raise the question here: who is doing good work in the discipline on the politics of transnational social movements and markets? Most of the relevant newer cites seem to come from sociologists such as Tim Bartley, Brayden King, and Sarah Soule. IR folks, help me out. Continue reading

State of the Field

In the nearly three years since the worst global economic crisis in the post-war era, how many articles have appeared in International Relations “flagship” journal, International Organization, with direct relevance to the pressing IPE questions of our time?

And no, a review essay on how the financial crisis suggests different directions in the study of financial regulations doesn’t count.


E-waste in China
Photo Source: Greenpeace

Demanufacturing is the process of disassembling, recycling, remanufacturing, or refurbishing outdated industrial and consumer products, particularly electronics (i.e. e-waste management, asset recovery, or urban mining) but also including activities such as shipbreaking, automobile shredding, devulcanization of rubber tires, etc. The tail end of the capitalist industrial production process was traditionally relegated to developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa as part of a broader ruthless and neo-racist practice of relocating polluting industries and processes in the periphery and semi-periphery. But demanufacturing firms are beginning to emerge in advanced industrial countries as a mechanism to ensure data security for e-waste, comply with environmental legislation/emerging global norms and conventions on toxic waste, make landfills more “efficient”, as well as to generate employment and profit from the re-use of lucrative materials.

The problem of e-waste is obviously created by the failure of capitalist industrial production processes to incentivize green designs and to “internalize” post-consumption. While there have been some voluntary and state-led initiatives to push industries to design green by using the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for the End-of-Life (EOL) stage of a product, the manufacturing industry in sectors like telecommunications and personal computing seem to have increasingly moved toward planned obsolescence with narrower and narrower time horizons (i.e. the iFad syndrome). Nevertheless, even if green design is still a dream in some sectors, the tide is turning toward more responsible demanufacturing in most of the world with a few exceptions. Only Afghanistan, Haiti, and the United States have yet to ratify the 1992 Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. The US, Canada, and Japan still object to particular provisions of the convention which restrict the export of toxic materials from developed to less developed countries. The US also continues to use prison labor to demanufacture e-waste in order to avoid more restrictive labor protections afforded to the general workforce. Canada has ratified the Basel Convention but it uses dubious tactics to comply. (Canada’s questionable behavior on this issue is actually not too surprising — as those of us who live near mega-landfills in the US know — our friends to the north are more than willing to export their sludge to the US in order to make their own country appear “green” while harming their neighbor’s environment.) The domestic environmental lobby in the US, Canada, and Japan will need to be energized on this issue to compel adherence to the international convention. Meanwhile, the EU has moved toward the adoption of a complete ban on the export of toxic materials to developing countries.

While preventing the export of toxic e-waste to LDCs is laudable given the enormous health and environmental impacts and the incapacity of many of those states to enforce environmental regulations, there is still a need to share best industry practices, technology, and equipment in the demanufacturing sector with LDCs as they attempt to deal with their own share of e-waste. India, for example, generates approximately 800,000 tons of e-waste per year. Otherwise, the environmental movement against e-waste becomes little more than an attempt to use legislation to create/protect a new industry in the OECD countries without regard for a comprehensive global solution. The Preamble and Articles 10 and 14 of the Basel Convention do recognize the need for establishing regional and sub-regional technology transfer centers for the management and minimization of hazardous waste, but the obligation is completely voluntary on signatory countries.

Fulfilling the voluntary obligation to share technology on waste management will be rather difficult since demanufacturing is emerging as a competitive for-profit industry in OECD countries. One solution may be to encourage FDI in this sector as some Japanese demanufacturers, with assistance from the Japanese Environment Ministry, are already trying to break into the emerging market recycling sector. Unfortunately, while some countries may welcome FDI in demanufacturing others will feel domestic pressure to limit competition. UN agencies (e.g. UNESCAP’s Asia Pacific Center for Transfer of Technology) may be able to facilitate some technology transfer. Ultimately, however, I think non-governmental organizations and Western research universities — which are already established sites of international technology and norm transfer — will need to play a pivotal role in creating and disseminating techniques and norms. Thus, the first step is to introduce the concepts associated with demanufacturing in the university curriculum from economics and international relations to chemistry and biology…

The IMF Horse Race

The Western powers are in a rush to quickly confirm Christine Lagarde as the next MD, but there are some very good alternative choices outside of Europe who should be carefully considered. It may also be in the interest of the institution to at least appear more inclusive to the non-European parts of the world.  Here is a very rushed list of candidates whom I think would be viable in the eyes of the major stakeholders at the Fund (although each one has some flaws):

1. Tharman Shanmugaratnam: I remember several years ago attending this Singaporean MP’s meeting with local constituents. The meeting went late into the night as he and his volunteers attempted to sort out the various bureaucratic and some petty and not-so-petty social problems of the residents in the district.  I was surprised to see a senior official (at the time he was the Education Minister, he is currently the Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister) in what is essentially a one party dominated state spend so much personal time working with his constituents.  He is smart, tireless, and compassionate. Of course, the main drawback of Singaporean politicians is inexperience in dealing with strong public dissent.

2. Eisuke Sakakibara: Known as “Mr. Yen” and the man who coined the phrase “market fundamentalism” to describe neoliberal economic policies, Sakakibara is a well respected Japanese technocrat and intellectual who is not afraid to speak his mind. Sakakibara was Japan’s nomination for the MD position 11 years ago. His tenure might signal a shift away from economic neoliberalism at the Fund.

3. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai: The incorruptible former Finance Minister of Afghanistan under Hamid Karzai has extensive experience in the challenges faced when rebuilding shattered economies. In addition, he worked for a decade in the World Bank and understands the Bretton Woods institutions very well. His drawback is that he can be gruff and does not tolerate fools — which is partly why  he was forced out of office in Afghanistan.

4. Anne Osborn Kreuger: Admittedly, a Westerner, but still quite worthy of consideration. An American economics professor who was the First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF from 2001 to 2006 and a former chief economist at the World Bank. She made a concerted effort to address the pressing issue of sovereign debt restructuring in her time at the IMF.

5. Montek Singh Ahluwalia: A whip smart economist who headed the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office. He was also part of the team of economists, along with Manmohan Singh, who helped to engineer India’s liberalization policies in the nineties. Montek has said he is not putting his name forward for the position, but I think he could be talked into it. He is a figure who is accustomed to controversy, but at the very least his work at the IEO would make him aware of the many failures of the IMF in recent decades.

I’d be interested to hear other names from my fellow Ducks and our readers…

IR Theory and Policy Processes

A running theme around the office lately has been the deeply problematic character of causal mechanisms that international-relations scholars take for granted. For example, apparently simple claims about domestic institutions and credible commitments often require all sorts of heroic assumptions about public attention to policy processes, the degree of actual restraint institutions impose upon executives, and so on. They also have almost nothing to do with the way that policymakers assess the credibility of their counterparts. A related set of issues revolve around embedded neoliberal assumptions in US International Political Economy, particularly involving “free trade,” but I’ll save that for others.

This is all basically wind up for the part of this post where I tell you to go read Henry Farrell’s response to Kindred Winecoff’s critique of Paul Krugman’s rebuttal to David Brooks (don’t you just love the blogging world?).

Like Henry, I really enjoy Kindred’s blogging and think that IPE at UNC is a truly outstanding addition to the academic blogssphere. But, also like Henry, I find his arguments here detached from real political processes in ways that reflect larger problems with contemporary US IPE.

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