Washington dissensus: Ambiguity and conflict at the international monetary fund

Tod S. van Gunten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

During the 1990s, the International Monetary Fund failed to develop clear exchange rate policy norms for developing countries, despite the fact that oversight of the international monetary system is central to its mandate. Explaining this behaviour requires revising theories of autonomous agenda-setting and 'ceremonial conformity' in international organizations (IOs). I argue that IOs often adopt a posture of strategic ambiguity when confronted with a combination of divisions among major member states and a lack of consensus in the profession that provides the organization's source of expert legitimacy. However, while the ambiguity helps avoid conflict in the short run, it undermines organizational governance capacity in the medium run, resulting in coordination failures. The empirical analysis relies on internal records of Fund meetings on the exchange rate issue, interviews with former IMF officials and analysis of the organization's governance role during currency crises in Mexico, Russia, Brazil and Argentina.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-84
Number of pages20
JournalSocio-Economic Review
Issue number1
Early online date30 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Developing countries
  • Financial crisis
  • Global economy
  • International economic order
  • Organizational theory


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