Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
06 December 2019

Thinking of change in unconventional ways

Inspired by Albert Hirschman, Ilene Grabel argues that meaningful change often emerges from disconnected and experimental adjustments in institutions and policies.

Ilene Grabel, Distinguished University Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, was recently awarded the 2019 International Studies Association International Political Economy Section Best Book Prize and the 2019 European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy Myrdal Prize for her book When Things Don’t Fall Apart: Global Financial Governance and Developmental Finance in an Age of Productive Incoherence (MIT Press, 2017).

In the public lecture co-hosted by the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) on 19 November 2019, she shared some key insights from her book and discussed the productive power of incoherence and experimentation in global governance.

Ilene Grabel, who is also presently serving as a standing member of the Intergovernmental Expert Group on Financing for Development at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), argued that the prevailing scholarly view of the effects of the global financial crisis on global financial governance was incorrect. That view held that the crisis had little effect, based on the absence of major ruptures in institutions and their policies. Ilene Grabel, by contrast, argued that the crisis produced discontinuities and inconsistencies in the fabric of global financial governance. These inconsistencies produced the space for policy and institutional experiments that are profoundly reshaping the global movement of capital.

Drawing on the work of Albert Hirschman, Ilene Grabel concluded that institutional incoherence could be meaningfully "productive", as actors pragmatically engage with and adapt to an evolving world.

Watch the lecture introduced by Paul Ladd, Director of UNRISD and moderated by Shalini Randeria, Director of the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy:

When Things Don’t Fall Apart: Global Financial Governance in an Age of Productive Incoherence

In her interview, she discusses how she draws from Albert Hirschman to think of change in unconventional ways:

Unconventional ways to think about change: Albert Hirschman's influence on Ilene Grabel's new book