Post-American Moments in Global Financial Governance in the New Millennium

Abstract

Writing during a previous interregnum, Gramsci spoke of the “morbid symptoms” that were readily apparent as “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” This is an apt description of the current conjuncture. If this period of aperture has one dominant feature, it is “incoherence.” By incoherence I mean that the landscape of international economic governance, especially as concerns finance, features fragmentation, conflict, experimentation, proliferation, unevenness, and the resilience of legacy practices. Interregnums are unwelcomed by social scientists. I call the longing for coherence “ism-ism,” reflecting the professional imperative to capture the proliferation of discordant tendencies in a neat analytical package, some “ism” or other, so that we can impose analytical order. Today we are lacking that new ism. Instead, we confront the 2020s anxious about the shape of what is emerging and what is to come. We confront the simultaneous proliferation of regimes that include kleptocratic capitalism, state capitalism, social democratic multilateralism, neoliberal nationalism, neonationalism, and what I call “embedded populism.” A post-American order may emerge—or at the very least a projection by scholars of such an order—but at present it is difficult to see just where the seeds of a new order lie. There is no doubt that the US has powerful legacy advantages and the Fed and the dollar still matter a lot. But that fact does not undermine the point that the world—well before the Covid-19 crisis--bore little resemblance to the world of the postwar or neoliberal American-led orders. The abdication by the US of its traditional role, as exerted under the post-war and the neoliberal American-led orders, is creating opportunities for more permissive and varied “reembededness” and diverse multilateralisms, even as each day also reveals the destructive aspects of incoherence. The emerging regime reflects neither your grandmother’s American-led order 1.0 or 2.0. In this morbid interregnum there is no singular “ism” or “alternative order,” a fact that I do not mourn.

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