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Hegemonic Stability Theories of the International Monetary System

  • Barry Eichengreen

Specialists in international relations have argued that international regimes operate smoothly and exhibit stability only when dominated by a single, exceptionally powerful national economy. In particular, this "theory of hegemonic stability" has been applied to the international monetary system. The maintenance of the Bretton Woods System for a quarter century through 1971 is ascribed to the singular power of the United States in the postwar world, while the persistence of the classical gold standard is similarly ascribed to Britain's dominance of the 19th-century international economy. In contrast, the instability of the interwar gold-exchange standard is attributed to the absence of a hegemonic power. This paper assesses the applicability of hegemonic stability theory to international monetary relations, approaching the question from both theoretical and empirical vantage points. While that theory is of some help for understanding the relatively smooth operation of the classical gold standard and early Bretton Woods System as well as some of the difficulties of the interwar years, much of the evidence proves to be difficult to reconcile with the hegemonic stability view.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2193.

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Date of creation: Mar 1987
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Publication status: published as From Can Nations Agree? Essays on International Economic Cooperation,edited by Ralph Bryant, pp. 255-298. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1989.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2193
Note: ITI IFM
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  1. Sachs, Jeffrey, 1986. "The Uneasy Case for Greater Exchange Rate Coordination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 336-41, May.
  2. Eichengreen, Barry & Watson, Mark W & Grossman, Richard S, 1985. "Bank Rate Policy under the Interwar Gold Standard: A Dynamic Probit Model," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(379), pages 725-45, September.
  3. Stein, Arthur A., 1984. "The hegemon's dilemma: Great Britain, the United States, and the international economic order," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 38(02), pages 355-386, March.
  4. Eichengreen, Barry & Portes, Richard, 1986. "The Anatomy of Financial Crises," CEPR Discussion Papers 130, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Lawson, Fred H., 1983. "Hegemony and the structure of international trade reassessed: a view from Arabia," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 37(02), pages 317-337, March.
  6. McKeown, Timothy J., 1983. "Hegemonic stability theory and 19th century tariff levels in Europe," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 37(01), pages 73-91, December.
  7. Barry J. Eichengreen, 1984. "International Policy Coordination in Historical Perspective: A View from the Interwar Years," NBER Working Papers 1440, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Hart, Jeffrey, 1976. "Three approaches to the measurement of power in international relations," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(02), pages 289-305, March.
  9. Eichengreen, Barry, 1984. "Central bank cooperation under the interwar gold standard," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 64-87, January.
  10. Ruggie, John Gerard, 1975. "International responses to technology: Concepts and trends," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 29(03), pages 557-583, June.
  11. DONALD N. McCLOSKEY, 1970. "Did Victorian Britain Fail?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 23(3), pages 446-459, December.
  12. Cohen, Benjamin J., 1982. "Balance-of-payments financing: evolution of a regime," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(02), pages 457-478, March.
  13. Lipson, Charles, 1982. "The transformation of trade: the sources and effects of regime change," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(02), pages 417-455, March.
  14. Cowhey, Peter F. & Long, Edward, 1983. "Testing theories of regime change: hegemonic decline or surplus capacity?," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 37(02), pages 157-188, March.
  15. Gowa, Joanne, 1984. "Hegemons, IOs, and markets: the case of the substitution account," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 38(04), pages 661-683, September.
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