Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Post-American Moments in Global Financial Governance in the New Millennium

Friday, February 28, 2020

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Leung Conference Room,#110, Stephen Robert '62 Hall, 280 Brook Street

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Professor Ilene Grabel will discuss the emerging disjunctures in global financial governance for the US-led liberal international order in the “post-embedded liberal era.” The decades that followed WII featured the dominance of embedded liberal ideas, which inter alia entailed both a unipolar global financial governance architecture organized around the US-led Bretton Woods institutions and consensus around the view that the financial sector should be subordinated to social and real sector objectives. The neoliberalism that followed the collapse of the embedded liberal era reinforced existing US-led unipolarity while dispensing with the latter as a “barbarous relic.” Cracks in the unipolar global financial governance architecture and the neoliberal consensus began to emerge after the East Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, and spread during the crisis of 2008. The crises had contradictory effects on global financial governance and neoliberalism, deepening fissures in the US-led regime while also reinforcing the central role of the US. Today the US’ willingness and ability to use the global financial governance architecture to project a neoliberal international order is uncertain owing to the self-inflicted wounds associated with a chaotic, nationalist turn in US politics and the combined impulses toward deglobalization and reglobalization playing out beyond the US. At the root of some of today’s unfolding tensions are the dislocations, resentments, and failures associated with efforts to create a coherent internationally integrated system under the banner of US-led neoliberalism, something that underscores Polanyi’s prescience. These contradictory tensions are unfolding at a time of heightening financial fragility. In combination these developments are apt to induce substantive changes in global financial governance in the years ahead. These changes are likely to point in the direction of an uneasy pluripolar global financial governance architecture featuring a reconstructed embedded liberalism with Chinese and other non-American characteristics alongside rudderless US-led institutions.

Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance

Ilene Grabel is Distinguished University Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver. At the Korbel School she co-directs the MA graduate program in Global Finance, Trade, and Economic Integration. Her recent book, When Things Don’t Fall Apart: Global Financial Governance and Developmental Finance in an Age of Productive Incoherence (The MIT Press, 2017), won the 2019 European Association of Evolutionary Political Economy Myrdal Prize, the 2019 International Studies Association International Political Economy Best Book Award, and the 2018 British International Studies Association International Political Economy Book Prize. Grabel’s previous book (with Ha-Joon Chang), Reclaiming Development, was reissued in 2014, and has been translated into Korean, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, Tamil, Malayalam and Bahasa/Indonesian. Grabel has published widely on financial policy and crises, developmental financial architectures, international financial institutions, international capital flows, and global financial governance. Grabel is presently serving as a standing member of the Intergovernmental Expert Group on Financing for Development at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  She has served as a research consultant on several occasions for UNCTAD’s Division of Globalization and Development Strategies and UNCTAD’s Group of 24. Additional public engagement includes work with the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); International Poverty Centre for Inclusive Growth of the UNDP; United Nations University/World Institute for Development Economics Research; Progressive Society, which is a project of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of the European Parliament; and the NGOs Action Aid, Third World Network, and the coalition “New Rules for Global Finance.”