Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Making of Neoliberal Globalization: Norm Substitution and the Politics of Clandestine Institutional Change  [paywalled above, but free here]

Since the 1980s, neoliberal policies have been diffused around the world by international institutions established to support a very different world order. This article examines the repurposing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to become the world’s leading promoter of free markets. Social scientists commonly point to two modes of global-level institutional change: formal and fundamental transformations, like renegotiated treaties, or informal and incremental changes of a modest nature. The case of the IMF fits neither of these molds: it underwent a major transformation but without change in its formal foundations. Relying on archival material and interviews, the authors show that fundamental-yet-informal change was effected through a process of norm substitution—the alteration of everyday assumptions about the appropriateness of a set of activities. This transformation was led by the United States and rested on three pillars: mobilization of resources and allies, normalization of new practices, and symbolic work to stabilize the new modus operandi. This account denaturalizes neoliberal globalization and illuminates the clandestine politics behind its rise.
"Social scientists commonly point to two modes".  Social scientists may, but historians don't.

Modes and "modalities"

Language games lack purity: they refuse clear-cut boundaries, they borrow and steal from other sources, they overlap with other language games, and their governing rules are always in a state of flux and disputation. Lived language games are unruly and unkempt, untamed and untidy, much as life itself is. We do not doubt that Professor Bobbitt, like his mentor Wittgenstein, would fully agree.Yet in his moments as normative grammarian, Bobbitt still longs to preserve a certain purity within the language game of constitutional argument. We think this attempt is doomed to failure. Living language games are the products of history: they are motley and variegated, often chaotic, and always jerry-rigged. Their heterogeneity continually reasserts itself, especially when, as with constitutional legal argument, they are both a means and an object of intense political dispute. Such language games are both a terrain of cultural struggle and a potential prize in that struggle; they always frustrate the attempts of grammarians, normative and descriptive alike, to police their asserted boundaries and preserve their imagined purity. 

 "The Making of..." Kentikelenis lays it out in a thread.

I told him they should make it a book, and they are.  But it's not social science or a history of "ideas"; it's a history of actions and events, of politics and power games. Ideas are secondary; they're the superstructure.

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