13 Jun 2023
Brown Bag Seminar, 12:15, Silva Casa Auditorium, World Trade Institute, Hallerstrasse 6, Bern, Switzerland

Brown Bag Seminar: "Perfect Scapegoats? Blaming and Defending the International Monetary Fund"

Tom Hunter, from the University of Zurich, joins us at the WTI for the last great Brown Bag of this semester. The topic: IMFs criticism.


International organizations (IOs) are considered ideal scapegoats for opportunistic national governments. Yet we know surprisingly little about whether and when governments indeed shift blame onto IOs. We argue that IO scapegoating is not as pervasive as commonly assumed because blaming IOs is costly.

Using the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a case, we show that governments face a trade-off between international cooperation gains and domestic political gains when responding to implementation of contested IO policies: While blaming the IOs helps governments distance themselves from contested IO policies, it reduces the gains from their cooperation with the IO by undermining their credibility. To reap cooperation gains, governments can instead defend the IO, but doing so entails the risk of bearing domestic political cost.

We suggest that a government’s dependence on international cooperation as well as their vulnerability to domestic contestation shapes how governments cope with the cooperation-contestation tradeoff. With an original dataset of over 500 hand-coded IMF statements by heads of governments in Argentina, Ireland, Greece, and South Korea, we find supportive evidence for our expectations.

Crucially, we observe that whilst governments do frequently blame the IMF, they in fact defend the Fund more than they blame it. Our findings yield important implications for international cooperation in times of heightened politicization.

About the speaker

Tom Hunter is a postdoctoral researcher at the Chair of International Relations and Political Economy, at the University of Zurich. He obtained his PhD at the London School of Economics, where his thesis used innovative text as data methods to explore the causes and consequences of national governments’ home style: the presentational strategies they employ when presenting European integration in their domestic public spheres. His research interests include quantitative text analysis, comparative politics, public opinion, and the legitimacy and politicization of global governance institutions.

We strongly encourage you to attend this event on-site. In case you cannot be present in person, you can use the following Zoom link to tune in virtuallyhttps://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMkf-murTgiHNEBXeGqDRaOZpA85K0EM_6j 

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