Political Economy Seminar
The Meddlers: Sovereignty, Empire and the Birth of Global Economic Governance
Presenter: Jamie Martin, Harvard University
Date: Friday 23 June 2023
Time: 11am (Sydney/Australian Eastern Time)
Online: Please join via Zoom
Please join us for a seminar with Jamie Martin, on his book, The Meddlers: Sovereignty, Empire and the Birth of Global Economic Governance, recently published by Harvard University Press.
Martijn Konings will also speak as discussant.
About the talk
International economic institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank exert incredible influence over the domestic policies of many states. These institutions date from the end of World War II and amassed power during the neoliberal era of the late twentieth century. But as Jamie Martin shows, if we want to understand their deeper origins and the ideas and dynamics that shaped their controversial powers, we must turn back to the explosive political struggles that attended the birth of global economic governance in the early twentieth century.
The Meddlers tells the story of the first international institutions to govern the world economy, including the League of Nations and Bank for International Settlements, created after World War I. These institutions endowed civil servants, bankers, and colonial authorities from Europe and the United States with extraordinary powers: to enforce austerity, coordinate the policies of independent central banks, oversee development programs, and regulate commodity prices. In a highly unequal world, they faced a new political challenge: was it possible to reach into sovereign states and empires to intervene in domestic economic policies without generating a backlash?
Martin follows the intense political conflicts provoked by the earliest international efforts to govern capitalism—from Weimar Germany to the Balkans, Nationalist China to colonial Malaya, and the Chilean desert to Wall Street. The Meddlers shows how the fraught problems of sovereignty and democracy posed by institutions like the IMF are not unique to late twentieth-century globalization, but instead first emerged during an earlier period of imperial competition, world war, and economic crisis.
“The Meddlers is an eye-opening, essential new history that places our international financial institutions in the transition from a world defined by empire to one of nation states enmeshed in the world economy.”—Adam Tooze, Columbia University
About the speaker
Jamie Martin is an international historian with a focus on the history of international political economy and empire, particularly during the era of the world wars. He is the author of The Meddlers: Sovereignty, Empire, and the Birth of Global Economic Governance (Harvard University Press, 2022), which charts the origins and rise of the first international institutions to govern global capitalism after World War I – and the political resistance they generated around the world, from Western Europe to the Balkans, the United States, Latin America, China, and colonial Southeast Asia. He has published widely on the political economy of the world wars, international institutions, the history of commodities, and the intellectual history of crisis. His public writing – on topics such as the history of central banking, financial crisis, and global governance – has also appeared in The New York Times, The London Review of Books, The Nation, n+1, Dissent, Bookforum, and The Guardian.