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Author(s):
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
March 1976
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Is WOMP the answer?

Falk, Richard A., A Study of Future Worlds, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., The Free Press, 1975, xxxiii + 506 pp., $15.

In general terms the case for an interdisciplinary approach to problems of the world’s economic and political future would seem to be incontestable. What could be more sensible than to include experts in history, politics, psychology, economics, law, and other disciplines in teams to try and chart the uncertain future of industrial man?

This book is about a joint research scheme, the World Order Models Project (WOMP). The author, Mr. Falk, is a lawyer by training, specializing in international law. Much of his work is devoted to skillfully presenting the case for what ought to be, in his view, the basis of a system of world government. The director of the World Order Models Project (Mr. Mendlovitz) expresses in his introduction his belief that there will certainly be a world government in existence by the year 2000, and that the only serious question to debate is whether it will be “totalitarian,” “benign,” or “participatory.”

Briefly, Mr. Falk argues as follows. The coordinates of the present world order system (which consists exclusively of governments of sovereign states) were contained in the terms of the Treaty of Westphalia signed by several European powers in 1648. The United Nations Charter of 1945 superimposed on this sovereign state system a weak set of supranational institutions, but still “incorporated Westphalia logic” (i.e., left sovereign states formally unaltered in status). The new institutions could induce states to cooperate functionally on certain matters, but the multinational, largely privately owned corporation had at least as strong a globalizing influence as the official international structures. None of these international organs was capable of handling the challenging issues of the times—population pressure, the threat to the ecology of the world, or the runaway technological developments in warfare—and therefore there has to be “global reform.”

This brings the author to an examination of a number of alternatives. Falk concentrates on what, in the project jargon, is called S2 (WOMP/USA). S2 is a new system of world order, in fact that system which “realizes” substantially WOMP values to the fullest possible extent. Needless to say, it represents substantially the “abolition” of the inequities that exist in S1 (existing arrangements), and it will aim at satisfying the “minimum thresholds” of between 60 and 78 per cent of each nation. Whether or not this is possible, the development plans for Third World countries have to be specific; they must satisfy also human needs. Finally, the author puts in a strong plea for the view that the United States itself would benefit from a WOMP—in other words, the U.S. has an interest in promoting the project.

The discussion is vivid and clear, but wholly subjective and rather unconvincing. The reader may sympathize with many of the author’s value judgments, some thrown off “en passant”—for instance, to the effect that the present American vision of the future is a “clockwork orange” vision—”pervasive amorality and dulled feeling in a material environment constituted by plastic objects and neon colors,” or with his endorsement of Kate Millet’s views on so-called “male-dominated liberation and revolutionary movements.” But to sympathize, or even to agree, is not necessarily to be convinced.

In the jargon of this model, “the best strategy for Americans involves commitment to the rapid realization of S2 (WOMP/USA) by means of Transition Path 1.” It would not be impossible, not necessarily wholly unrewarding, to translate this statement into English, but even so it would remain a dogmatic pronouncement based wholly on an assumed, and idiosyncratic, system of values. Moreover, the notion of government as the art of the possible seems to have been discarded with many other lessons of experience.

Ian Bowen

Exciting beginnings

Eckes, Alfred E., Jr., A Search for Solvency: Bretton Woods and the International Monetary System, 1941-1971, Austin, Texas, U.S.A., University of Texas Press, 1975, xiii + 355 pp., $10.

At the present time—the mid-1970s—when cooperation among nations in the economic and monetary fields has again become a matter of great concern, it is especially timely that we be reminded of the extremely difficult circumstances in which the two Bretton Woods institutions were conceived and born and of the determined efforts of those who fathered them. Professor Eckes, historian at Ohio State University, explaining how preoccupation with the cold war has caused scholars, until the last decade, to focus attention on familiar military and diplomatic themes dealing with World War II peacemaking to the serious neglect of its economic dimensions, has placed the name of Bretton Woods alongside the names of Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam. His purpose is to explain, in a broad context, the motivations, the plans, the actions, and the negotiations of the United States in creating the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank so as to help maintain peace after World War II.

Professor Eckes brings out clearly the work and vision required of those who participated, and their desire to construct a monetary regime that would avoid errors and flaws that had led to two global wars and a depression which had shredded the political and economic fabric of international relationships.

Perhaps the most fascinating chapter is entitled “Selling the ‘Magnificent Blueprint.’” Here Professor Eckes spells out details on how the officials and technicians of the U.S. Treasury turned salesmen during the winter of 1944-45, speaking to banking and trade groups, organizing luncheons for reporters and columnists, preparing radio scripts, pamphlets, and articles, and even subsidizing short films. In each of these approaches the Treasury experts avoided intricate, and generally confusing, discussions of currency parities and balance of payments mechanisms; instead, they stressed the far more comprehensible need for world security and expanding trade. Their intent was to make the need for the two institutions widely understood and politically acceptable. Professor Eckes makes it clear that the IMF and the World Bank were real innovations and that it was anything but easy to get the U.S. public to accept them.

To bring us this message, the author has done a tremendous amount of research into official documents, manuscript collections, Ph.D. dissertations, books, and articles, and has interviewed some of those involved with the Bretton Woods talks. Yet he accomplishes his exposition in less than 300 very readable pages. For those who wish to read more, he has an extensive bibliography.

If there is any weakness in the book, it is in the two chapters (8 and 9) that attempt to explain rather briefly what happened to the Bretton Woods institutions in the 25 years after their founding. What Professor Eckes describes is not wrong—indeed, his presentation shows considerably more understanding of economic matters than one would expect of a historian—but these chapters are not as good as the first three quarters of the book. Since one can cover only so much, and since Professor Eckes’ desire to have a sequel to his exciting beginning is understandable, we can forgive him this weakness.

Those currently engaged in designing a new international monetary system should read this book for encouragement and inspiration.

Margaret Garritsen de Vries

Change or confusion?

Alexander, K.J.W. (editor), The Political Economy of Change, Oxford, England, Basil Black-well, 1975, viii + 189 pp., £6.

Will liberal representative democracies be destroyed by recurring economic crises engendered by the democratic system itself? Should we look outside economics in attempts to define the sources of economic growth? Are declines in the quality of life an inevitable accompaniment of economic growth? How can adjustments to changes in natural resource availability and market structures be achieved without major social disruptions?

These are some of the questions discussed—mainly in the context of Great Britain today—in this collection of papers which were prepared for the 1974 meeting of the Economics Section of the British Association. Some of the papers are hard to read and are written in the jargon which makes communication between economists, sociologists, technologists, and political scientists so difficult. Under such an ambitious title, the range of subjects covered is inevitably wide, with little apparent relationship between one paper and the next. One is left with the feeling that it would have been better to focus on only one of the questions referred to above.

Nevertheless, a theme emerges, which is the need for an interdisciplinary approach to tackle effectively the problems arising from economic change. An analysis of the obstacles to economic growth is of little value without taking into account political and social factors. Economists in particular tend to ignore many of the difficult issues of human behavior. However, commonplace though the wish for an interdisciplinary approach to complex modern economic problems may be, it remains unclear how it can readily be achieved.

Michael Carter

Beyond economics

Guillaume Marc, Le capital et son double, Paris, France, Presses Universitaires de France, 1975, 172 pp.

More and more economists nowadays are ignoring neoclassical analysis, even in the context of using its limitations as a basis for discussion. It is, of course, quite true that for a long time Marxists have insisted on its ideological function to maintain a certain social framework. It is also true that for a long time there has been a strong tendency to dismiss the claims of both Marxism and classicism to be “objective” disciplines, since they are relative to technological change. Galbraith’s books have done a great deal to popularize this latter approach. For Marc Guillaume too, current economics is an “operational science” that can always be refined within our Western society—and it is worth noting that these days even the “Keynesian revolution” often appears as a quite limited response to one particular crisis arising in a given economic and social system. For Guillaume, both classicism and Marxism tend to restrict themselves to a type of economics that is cut off from the most recent developments in the other social sciences.

It is rare to find an economist with a real knowledge of the present state of ethnological and sociological research, and especially rare to find one with such a mastery of the subject that he is able to draw upon it in a coherent and didactical manner. This is one of the chief merits of Guillaume. However, although the author feels at ease “beyond the limits of economics,” his six points are often too sophisticated and his readers run the risk of losing their way, or becoming put off. Such is the case when he makes the distinction—well known in structural linguistics and very basic to his argument—between metaphoric (symbolic) and metonymic (imaginary) communication. For all that, these are concepts that have become accepted and are in current use. But the risk of confusion is even greater when Guillaume introduces the concept of a more limited social code (distinguishing it from the Spectacle, within the framework of social symbolics).

The other interesting point about Le capital et son double is that its author makes a deliberate attempt to combine the most recent conceptualizations of psychoanalysis (and of antipsychoanalysis) with his view of the development of capitalist societies. Nevertheless, even though one may be convinced of the false objectivity attached to the term “need” (besoin), it is by no means certain that Guillaume’s replacement “wish” (désir) is an improvement. Guillaume’s approach is so systematic, both because it is coherent and also because it often refers back to itself, and complex, that it is frequently difficult to be convinced by what he is saying.

His thesis is, however, very attractive, since it is part of the contemporary theoretical movement going beyond both the classical and the Marxist approach. The State, public and private organizations, and the technostructures are not independent authorities pursuing the general welfare or goals of their own, nor are they reflections or emanations of capital. They are more or less imperfect duplicates or “doubles,” operating within the framework of a social code which, as it were, ensures the parallel development of the dialectics of power and the domination of the market economy. Thus, in analyzing the redistributive function of the State budget, or the attitude of the State to unemployment, Guillaume concludes that “the State can, at one and the same time, act as an autonomous authority and take over the objectives of the market economy.”

It is clear, in the mind of the author, that the Marxist approach has called into question the very foundations of economics, by showing conclusively how the principles of economics were relative to a given society. Guillaume is not prepared, however, to accept “traditional” Marxism; his respectful silence with regard to Gramsci and his occasional recourse to Althusser’s analyses would seem, at times, to permit a certain ambiguity in his attitude towards Marxism of the more contemporary type. One often has the impression that his book is addressed to the simplified Marxism of European students, in tacit agreement with their reservations about the economics taught in the universities. He is, however, asking them to go beyond this stage. To begin with, the humanities offer a vast field for research; the progress of each of these sciences must be constantly integrated into a global view that leaves none of them intact. In the second place, economics is taught because it is practiced in our society. So far as we are concerned, and also so far as the author is concerned, we are indeed dealing with a predominant ideology but, since it exists, it is also a tool available to us; it is a set of techniques that we can seek to master in order to operate within the framework of our society.

Robert Maubouché

Looking back

MacDougall, Donald, Studies in Political Economy: Volume I, The Inter war Years and the 1940s, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., Crane, Russak and Company, Inc., 1975, xvi + 273 pp., $21.50.

MacDougall, Donald, Studies in Political Economy: Volume II, International Trade and Domestic Economic Policy, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., Crane, Russak and Company, Inc., 1975, xx + 282 pp., $21.50.

Sir Donald MacDougall has spent 40 years as an active, practicing economist, and has now brought together in these two volumes his main published papers. There are 21 of them plus an “epilogue” consisting of his 1974 Presidential address to the Royal Economic Society. During his 40 years as an economist, he has served in a number of key public positions, ranging from first economic director of the OEEC (Organization for European Economic Cooperation) to Head of the U.K. Government Economic Service and Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury. He was also a member of the famous Statistical Section that advised Winston Churchill in World War II and again in 1951. Sir Donald also found time to be an academic in between.

Like all collections of past publications, his papers make mixed reading long after the event. However, read alongside the author’s introduction, in which he reflects on their present significance and gives important background information on how they came to be written, they appear as important footnotes to the economic history of the postwar years.

MacDougall belongs to that relatively small number of economists, who, while being perfectly capable theorists, choose to use theory largely for the elucidation of practical problems. There are several substantial empirical studies in these volumes which illustrate this point, notably the well-known paper on “British and American exports: a study suggested by the theory of comparative costs.” They are models of good, applied economics, leading to suggested policy conclusions that stand up well in the light of subsequent events. Other empirical studies reprinted here are astonishingly topical; the paper on ‘The distribution of income in Venezuela” was written in 1959, long before the subject became as popular as it is today. Similarly, the paper on “India’s balance of payments” (1961) can still be read today, with profit, as is also true of the better known 1947 paper, “Britain’s foreign trade problem.”

This last paper harks back to long-dead controversies about the correct economic policy for the United Kingdom in the early postwar years. A foreign trade problem may still exist for the United Kingdom, but its causes are very different from that earlier postwar situation; in retrospect there is little doubt that MacDougall was on the winning side in those early disputes.

The epilogue is a fitting one after 40 years of active economic life; it is a modest, but confidently stated essay “In Praise of Economics,” setting out the author’s view that economists need not be ashamed of their contribution to human welfare. Certainly, Sir Donald MacDougall can be proud of his own contribution.

E. K. Hawkins

Planning the harvest

Sen, Sudhir, A Richer Harvest, Maryknoll, New York, U.S.A., Orbis Books, 1974, xxiii + 573 pp., $10.95; Reaping the Green Revolution, Maryknoll, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., Orbis Books, 1975, xx + 397 pp., $10.95.

These two studies by Dr. Sudhir Sen offer students and practitioners of economic development, especially of Indian economic development, an unusually clear, and refreshingly controversial, analysis of the issues which he believes to be critical. In A Richer Harvest, Dr. Sen describes the impact on India of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s original “green revolution” in agricultural production, and compares its progress there with the experience of other countries such as Mexico and Pakistan. He places the “richer harvest,” with all its mixture of advances and setbacks, within the perspective of agricultural planning—and agricultural planning within the framework of general economic planning. Finally, he provides a general critique of the strategy of Indian economic planning.

Reaping the Green Revolution develops the theme of the first book and makes the case for his own proposed solutions with more detailed emphasis.

Dr. Sen argues that there was no deliberate neglect of agriculture in the priorities outlined in the first three Indian five-year plans, nor, in his view, were the “agriculture-firsters” wise to ignore the case for an industrializing policy. He deprecates, for example, attacks made on the development in that era of India’s steel industry. Yet in later passages Dr. Sen quotes the late French President Charles de Gaulle with approval: “You can’t eat what you don’t produce,” which, if fulfilled, should enable developing countries to put agriculture first, and produce their own food.

Readers of these interesting studies must decide for themselves how far Dr. Sen has succeeded in reconciling these, and other, opposing points of view. He has reviewed many issues with great lucidity, and with an enviable enthusiasm for proposing definite and concrete policies. He is, for example, a strong proponent of raising the economic tempo of Indian villages by initiating a plan for many thousand new rural towns in which industries complementary to agricultural development would be located. His enthusiasm, and his grasp of facts and ideas from many sources, enable him to review data with ease and with an infectious optimism and good sense. Yet he shows himself to be fully aware of the destructive consequences that will follow if such problems as uncontrolled population growth are not successfully tackled by developing countries in the near future.

I. B.

Other books received

Roemer, Michael, and Joseph J. Stern, The Appraisal of Development Projects: A Practical Guide to Project Analysis with Case Studies and Solutions, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., Praeger 1975, xxi + 223 pp., $16.50.

Maddox, John, Beyond the Energy Crisis: A Global Perspective, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975, 208 pp., $8.95.

Gordon, Bernard K., and Kenneth J. Roth-well, The New Political Economy of the Pacific, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.A., Ballinger Publishing Company, 1975, ix + 177 pp., $11.50.

Grayson, Leslie E., Economics of Energy, Princeton, N.J., U.S.A., The Darwin Press, Inc., 1975, xvi + 457 pp., $16.95.

Michaely, Michael, Foreign Trade Regimes & Economic Development: Israel, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., National Bureau of Economic Research for Columbia University Press, 1975, xv + 219 pp., $12.50.

Baldwin, Robert E., Foreign Trade Regimes & Economic Development: The Philippines, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., National Bureau of Economic Research for Columbia University Press, 1975, xix + 165 pp., $10.

De Albornoz de la Escosura, Alvaro, Los Orígenet de la Inflatión Mexicana Actual: Causales Registradas de 1940 a 1970, Mexico, D.F., Mexico, Imprenta Madero, 1975, 175 pp.

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