Explaining organizational outcomes: The International Monetary Fund and capital account liberalization

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This article traces the discourse on capital account liberalization in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during the 1990s. Based on constructivist insights, I argue that rationalist materialist theories of international organizations neglect the social dynamics of behaviour and change. The empirical focus is on the transformation of IMF policy and discourse towards emphasizing the liberalization of international capital movements. External factors do not explain the rise of the discourse within the IMF. For that, I refer to the role of organizational culture as the crucial variable. However, the attempt to institutionalize capital account liberalization at the global level failed in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. In the second part, I explore the political decision-making process in the Fund's Board of Executive Directors in order to shed light on the different interpretations of the crisis. I find that, far from imposing a single reading of the causes and effects of the crisis, different interpretations were advanced and contested in the deliberations of the Board. Communicative action explains why the Asian crisis constituted the 'kiss of death' for the formal institutionalization of the norm of an open capital account at the international level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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