Economic Governance in the Age of Globalization, by William K. Tabb. New York: Columbia University Press. 2004. ISBN 0231131542, $69.50. 520 pages.
William Tabb introduces the reader to critical arguments on the benefits of globalization and some of the institutions providing governance to the global economy. The book discusses the Washington Consensus and relevant institutions including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. Professor Tabb questions the motivations behind initiation and control of these instruments of governance, and strongly advocates against a naive adoption of policy prescriptions without regard to particular social and political circumstances.
The book begins with a discussion on the definition, nature, and scope of globalization and the field of international political economy. It highlights dilemmas faced by an emerging and, in the author's view, ineffective system of global economic governance. Within the historical context of the post-war economic order, Professor Tabb describes the creation and operation of the Bretton Woods Institutions, details subsequent changes to their agendas, and critically assesses their impact on various dimensions of development. Finally, the author draws out suggestions toward a new financial architecture and a more comprehensive system of global governance to benefit wider sections of the world's population.
Given constraints on scope and length, only a few specific points can be picked up in a book review. Certainly, the gains of trade, the prospects of reform, and the benefits of growth of the global economy can be elusive. Motivated economic and political policies, corruption, and mistakes due to hubris often aggravate shortcomings in the workings of the invisible hand. It does not help when those advocating the rule of law and principles of free trade are themselves not always champions of their own prescriptions. Professor Tabb reminds the reader that deterministic equilibrium scenarios of neoclassical economics often ignore such imperfections. Every organization struggles with issues of transparency and secrecy, including the institutions at the focus of this book. How they handle such issues says much about commitment to their own principles. The book repeatedly emphasizes that decisions and policies on global governance are not free from political and strategic motivations.
Professor Tabb critically assesses the work of the IMF. The...