Publications by Author: Abdelal, Rawi E.

Constructing the International Economy
Abdelal, Rawi E. 2010. Constructing the International Economy. Cornell University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

Focusing empirically on how political and economic forces are always mediated and interpreted by agents, both in individual countries and in the international sphere, Constructing the International Economy sets out what such constructions and what various forms of constructivism mean, both as ways of understanding the world and as sets of varying methods for achieving that understanding. It rejects the assumption that material interests either linearly or simply determine economic outcomes and demands that analysts consider, as a plausible hypothesis, that economies might vary substantially for nonmaterial reasons that affect both institutions and agents' interests.

Constructing the International Economy portrays the diversity of models and approaches that exist among constructivists writing on the international political economy. The authors outline and relate several different arguments for why scholars might attend to social construction, inviting the widest possible array of scholars to engage with such approaches. They examine points of terminological or theoretical confusion that create unnecessary barriers to engagement between constructivists and nonconstructivist work and among different types of constructivism.

This book provides a tool kit that both constructivists and their critics can use to debate how much and when social construction matters in this deeply important realm

Abdelal, Rawi E., and Adam Segal. 2007. “Has Globalization Passed Its Peak?”. Abstract

Once upon a time, not very long ago, economic globalization— the free worldwide flow of capital, goods, and labor—looked both inevitable and inexorable. Most governments seemed to embrace the very real benefits being offered by rapid technological change and international markets and sought to liberalize their economies in order to maximize these gains. Policymakers worked to prepare their societies for a world of ever-increasing interconnectedness and relentless competition, and the debate—at least within the United States—started to revolve around how to cope with the effects of this new "flat" earth.

Then came the financial crises of the 1990s and the early years of this century in Asia, Russia, and Latin America. The U.S. current account deficit—the difference, broadly speaking, between what U.S. residents spend abroad and what they sell abroad—shot upward. The U.S. dollar fell in value and seemed headed for an even more precipitous drop. As outsourcing accelerated, the American middle class came to feel increasingly insecure. Historians such as Niall Ferguson and Harold James pointed out that the previous era of globalization (which ran from about 1870 to 1914) had once seemed as unstoppable as the current one but had ended disastrously; so, too, they warned, could today’s.

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(Abridged and reprinted in International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues, ninth edition, ed. Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis. New York: Longman, 2009, pp. 340-346.)


Why were capital controls orthodox in 1944, but heretical in 1997? The scholarly literature, following the conventional wisdom, focuses on the role of the United States in promoting capital liberalization. Although the United States encouraged capital liberalization bilaterally, US policy makers never embraced multilateral rules that codified the norm of capital mobility. Rather, European policy makers wrote the most important rules in favour of the free movement of capital. Paradoxically, French policy makers in particular played decisive roles. For the debates that mattered most—in the EU, OECD, and IMF—the United States was, respectively, irrelevant, inconsequential and indifferent. Europe did not capitulate to global capital. Rather, French and other European policy makers created today’s liberal international financial regime. French and European policy makers have promoted a rule-based, "managed" globalization of finance, whereas US policy makers have tended to embrace an ad hoc globalization based on the accumulation of bilateral bargains. Once liberal rules were codified in the EU and OECD, they constituted the policy practices of "European" and "developed"’ states, for which capital controls are no longer considered a legitimate policy tool. During the middle of the 1990s, the IMF debated new, universal rules in favour of capital freedom, but the proposal was defeated, primarily by the US Congress, after the financial crises of 1997–98. By then the vast majority of the world’s capital flows were already governed by the liberal rules of the EU and OECD.

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Abdelal, Rawi E., Yoshiko Margaret Herrera, Alastair Iain Johnston, and Rose McDermott. 2005. “Identity as a Variable”. Abstract

As scholarly interest in the concept of identity continues to grow, social identities are proving to be crucially important for understanding contemporary life. Despite—or perhaps because of—the sprawl of different treatments of identity in the social sciences, the concept has remained too analytically loose to be as useful a tool as the literature?s early promise had suggested. Our paper proposes to solve this longstanding problem by developing the analytical rigor and methodological imagination that will make identity a reliable variable for the social sciences. Such work is important and, indeed, long overdue.

Social identity scholarship suffers from two sets of problems: conceptual issues and coordination gaps. The conceptual problems include the question of how to compare and differentiate types of identities, as well as the question of how to exploit theoretical advances in operationalizing identity as a variable. The other weakness in identity scholarship concerns what we term “coordination” problems. These include a lack of consistency and clarity in defining and measuring identities, a lack of cross–disciplinary and cross–sub–field coordination of identity research, and missed opportunities to take advantage of expanded methodological options. The analytic framework developed in this paper addresses these problems and offers a way forward.

Our paper offers more rigor and precision by defining collective identity as a social category that varies along two dimensions—content and contestation. Content describes the meaning of a collective identity. The content of social identities may take the form of four, non–mutuallyexclusive types: constitutive norms; social purposes; relational comparisons with other social categories; and cognitive models. Contestation refers to the degree of agreement within a group over the content of the shared category. Our conceptualization thus enables collective identities to be compared according to the agreement and disagreement about their meanings by the members of the group.

The final section of the paper looks at the methodology of identity scholarship. Addressing the wide array of methodological options on identity—including discourse analysis, surveys, and content analysis, as well as promising newer methods like experiments, agent–based modeling, and cognitive mapping—we hope to provide the kind of brush–clearing that will enable the field to move forward methodologically as well.

Our paper thus offers two ways forward for social scientific work on identity—by developing a more rigorous, more precisely defined analytic framework, and by providing a methodological roadmap for further integrated progress in identity scholarship.

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