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Book Panel -- Beyond Materialism: What Makes the International Political Economy Tick?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

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Beyond Materialism: What Makes the International Political Economy Tick? 

A Book Talk on Constructing the International Economy 

The world economy is ever more complicated. Unpredicted events often influence markets in improbable ways. Crises recur with worrisome frequency. And yet 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. 

Now, a group of scholars is attempting 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. 

Brown political economist and Watson Faculty Fellow Mark Blyth – with his contributors Catherine Weaver, of the University of Texas at Austin, and Cornelia Woll, of Sciences Po Paris – will discuss their forthcoming book, Constructing the International Economy (Cornell University Press, June 2010). 

The book advances a strong version of the following claim: 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. 

Mark Blyth, professor of political economy, Brown University Political Science Department, faculty fellow at Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies, and co-editor of Constructing the International Political Economy 

Catherine Weaver, associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and author of the book’s chapter on “The Meaning of Development: Constructing the World Bank’s Good Governance Agenda” 

Cornelia Woll, research fellow and associate dean for research at Sciences Po Paris, and author of the book’s chapter on “Firm Interests in Uncertain Times: Business Lobbying in Multilateral Service Liberalization” 

Pauline Jones Luong, associate professor of political science at Brown University 

Nina Tannenwald, associate professor of international relations at Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies 

More information on the book is available here and the introductory chapter can be downloaded here.

The event is part of the Colloquium on Comparative Research, co-sponsored by the Watson Institute for International Studies. 

Location: Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street.