Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, Economic Sociology, University of Edinburgh

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Sociology, University of Wisconsin / Madison
The Politics of Monetary Instability

The last thirty years of the twentieth century were a period of dramatic global monetary instability. States' responses have varied widely, particularly in developing countries, resulting in policies that seem improvisatory, experimental and idiosyncratic. This dissertation seeks to explain the varied responses of developing countries to this uncertain environment. Understanding the politics underlying these policies poses an empirical and theoretical puzzle. Monetary and exchange rate policy do not seem to fit the conventional view of politics in which citizens pressure the state for policies that conform to their interests. Central bankers and other monetary decision-makers frequently hold advanced degrees in economics and conduct debates in terms that seem to portray these policies as "technical" issues above the fray of run-of-the-mill politics. On the other hand, monetary and exchange rate decisions can have important effects on the distribution of wealth both within and between countries. Given the high stakes, powerful social actors have every incentive to pressure state monetary institutions to comply with their preferences. Is the claim of economics to offer a science of monetary policy, then, a smokescreen for politics-as-usual? Or does economic knowledge exert an autonomous influence, shaping policy outcomes independently of political pressure? My hypothesis is that different configurations of economic knowledge, embodied in the training and experience that elites accumulate over diverse career paths and expressed in different formal and informal economic models, explain the varied policies that states have used to achieve monetary stability. This view suggests that policies should be seen as the outcome of a problem-solving process in which knowledgeable actors compete to determine the course of action of state institutions. I will compare the cases of Mexico and Argentina, examining the pattern of partial convergence followed by subsequent d