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Stallings: International influence on economic policy, debt stabilization, and structural reform

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Stallings. 1992. International influence on economic policy, debt stabilization, and structural reform. In The Politics of Economic Adjustment, eds. Haggard and Kaufman, pp. 41-89.


(So far, this summary is based on only the introduction and conclusion. Please improve this summary, and then delete this comment.)

In the 1970s, dependency theory assumed that economic liberalization was carried out by governments taking political risks; the state acted autonomously in response to strong international pressure by a league of IMF/World Bank/rich countires. Now, the pendulum has swung, and theorists focus mostly on domestic politics. We should not abandon our interest in international variables when explaining economic liberalization. (But see Schamis for the opposite argument: we should look mainly at domestic politics to explain liberalization). Domestic politics may explain why a particular state liberalizes at a particular time, but only international variables can explain why there are trends toward liberalization at certain times.

This chapter looks mainly like a revival and adaptation of dependency theory.

Four factors structure how international pressures affect liberalization.

  1. Timing. (But she should have called this "the international economic situation".) When the international economy was doing well and poor countries were growing, there was less pressure for reform. It's when countries start to default on debts and have other problems that you see pressure.
  2. Stage of the process. International pressure is strongest during the decision making state, weaker during the implementation stage, and strong again during the evaluation of outcomes (b/c this is really just the beginning of the next decisionmaking stage).
  3. Issue area. In the 1970s, international pressure was most concerned about debt, then stabilization, then structural reform. In the 1980s, international pressure was most concerned about structural reform, then stabilitzation, then debt. (but why???)
  4. Country characteristics. Ideology, regime type, interest group mobilization/organization, and state capacity all affect how the state responds to international pressures. (Potential criticism: Is this just a "fudge factor?")
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