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Extra resources for American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance (International Political Economy)
2. From Bretton Woods to neoliberalism: ‘hesitations and false starts’ Once we recognize the post-war period as the cradle of a new, globalizing and liberalizing American imperium, its implications for future developments become clearer. At the end of the 1950s the American state was not merely at the apex of a hierarchy of states, but was by now a qualitatively different kind of state from the rest, and was internationalized in a distinct way. 11 But while all the advanced capitalist states increasingly recognized (to varying degrees) the responsibility they had to participate in the 26 Contours and Sources of Imperial Finance management of international capitalism, they also recognized – and increasingly insisted on – the central role the American state had to play in this.
The post-war balance of class forces meant that labour could not be repressed as it had been before, which made it all the more important that financial capital should be reinforced. How far this could be accomplished varied from country to country. But it was certainly expressed in the determination with which the Bundesbank and the Finance Ministry in Germany espoused neoliberal monetarist policies throughout the post-war period. And, in the UK, the Bank of England – even after its nationalization by the post-war Labour government – continued to represent the interests of the City of London, often in alliance with a UK Treasury increasingly obsessed with restraining union wage power under conditions of high employment.
In turn, the growth of untrammelled global financial markets over the past quarter century has usually been seen in terms of the ‘liberation’ of finance from its post-war constraints. But the 1980s did not suddenly launch the liberalization and Americanization of international finance. No less a practitioner of financial capital and American power than Paul Volcker has stressed the continuity: ‘I take it almost as an article of faith (a faith that in this case can be backed by facts) that the United States, as the dominant power after World War II and for decades afterwards, was the driving force toward a liberal trading order and the freedom of international investment’ (Volcker and Gyohten 1992: 288).
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