How Did The Washington Consensus Move Within The IMF? Fragmented Change From The 1980s To The Aftermath Of The 2008 Crisis

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Review Of International Political Economy


While the Washington Consensus is one of the most (in)famous economic policy paradigms of recent times, the literature on it still lacks a detailed, diachronic analysis of how it evolved within one of its most important disseminators, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Such an analysis is important not just for gaining a better empirical sense of the Consensus, but also for illuminating a key question of interest in the study of international organizations: how ideas and institutions change. Toward this end, this paper uses content analysis to explore almost 12,000 IMF documents from 1982–2011, providing a uniquely detailed map of the institution's discourse on the Consensus. It tracks this policy paradigm's constituent parts across three different types of institutional documentation, representing different aspects of the institution's operations: Executive Board meeting minutes, Article IV staff reports, and Working Papers. Using vector autoregression techniques, the paper also examines the relative timing of discursive shifts across these three document types. Through these discussions, the paper advances and shows the relevance of “fragmented” change, where different dimensions of an overall policy paradigm shift at several different speeds, at different points in time, and led by a variety of different institutional activities.


IMF, Washington Consensus, fragmented change, content analysis, institutional change, ideational change, Article IV, executive board

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