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Legitimating the IMF : lessons from the Asian crisis

By Tristram Benedict Thirkell White


The thesis sets out to answer three questions: what caused the IMF's apparent crisis of legitimacy in the aftermath of the Asian crisis, why were the subsequent reforms so limited and what does that apparent paradox tell us about the politics of IMF policy-making?\ud \ud Criticism of the Fund's role in Asia was largely criticism of Fund performance but the performance issues fed into pre-existing difficulties with the relationship between the Fund's role and its institutional structures. Essentially, the Fund's role had expanded in developing countries and\ud contracted in developed countries but its institutions remained unchanged. The result was a growing imbalance between institutions designed to ensure IMF technical authority and an increasing need for more political kinds of legitimacy. The increasingly intrusive nature of Fund\ud conditionality has also changed the audiences for Fund legitimacy claims as cooperation from domestic populations became more important to secure implementation. The first part of the thesis explores these developments providing an analysis of the logic of the ll iF's traditional legitimating justifications and a historical view of its evolution over time.\ud \ud The second part of the thesis examines the political consequences of these growing tensions in the context of the Asian crisis. Through four case studies (Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and the US) it explores the nature of the new conditionality, the politics of programme implementation, forms of political resistance that materialised, and the nature of the relationship between the Fund, states and civil society. It argues that moves to engage civil society have created some modest successes but\ud are ultimately limited by the overall institutional framework within which they operate. Internally, the Fund remains an institution dominated by developed countries despite being principally responsible for developing country policy. It is also dominated by financial elites in both developing and developed countries.\ud \ud Legitimacy is about the credibility of authority claims but the poütical significance of those claims lies in the extent to which they are able to attract political support and trigger political resistance. A combination of modest reforms, new arguments and public ambivalence or incomprehension have currently reduced political dissent but the possibility of further resistance, and therefore reform, in the face of subsequent crises persists while institutions remain unreformed

Publisher: School of Politics & International Studies (POLIS) (Leeds)
Year: 2002
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