Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Blyth and Colleagues Look Beyond Materialism in 'Constructing the International Economy'

April 26, 2010

Watson Faculty Fellow Mark Blyth and colleagues have written the forthcoming Constructing the International Economy (Cornell University Press, June 2010), taking a new tack on an increasingly complex world economy.

Noting that unpredicted events often influence markets in improbable ways – and crises recur with worrisome frequency – the authors question why many scholars of the international political economy retain a comfortable certainty about how the world works – repeatedly offering up rationalist explanations based on materialist models despite their well known shortcomings. 

The book represents an attempt to take the field of political economy out of its comfort zone, by showcasing a variety of “constructivist” approaches to questions of distribution, policymaking, power, and interests. 

It advances the view that the assumption of a purely materialist view of theory is not – and never was – tenable. All political economy scholarship needs at least to consider, as a plausible hypothesis, that economies might vary substantially for nonmaterial reasons. In other words, the field needs to engage more systematically with constructivism, a theoretical approach that emphasizes precisely those nonmaterial influences on both institutions and practices.