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Title: How has the United States leveraged economic crises into its hegemony? : a case study of the Bretton Woods regime's demise and replacement, 1969-76
Author: Williamson, Martin Charles
ISNI:       0000 0004 7427 2850
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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International monetary and financial crises have punctuated US hegemony since 1945. With US hegemony likely to endure and crises likely to recur, we need to understand how the US reacts to such events: benevolently or exploitatively? Using a case study of US behaviour during the 1969-76 international monetary crisis, this thesis challenges narratives that interpret events in terms of the concentration or deconcentration of power in the US hegemon, and favours an explanation of US behaviours based on the interplay of US domestic politics and international security imperatives. Using a Constructivist definition of hegemony and a neoclassical realist theoretical framework, I analyse the crisis from the perspectives of the international monetary order and system, respectively. I introduce a novel division of Strange’s concept of structural power into its negative and positive components (the power to disrupt or create international structures, respectively). Using these analytical tools, I analyse documents held in the UK and US National archives, President Nixon’s White House tapes and the Bank of England archive. Key and original findings include: - US tactics veered between hegemony by consent and, when that failed to yield the desired results, hegemony through domination; - domination tactics could be brutal, as when President Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Kissinger, tried to wreck European integration by destroying its first attempt at monetary union. Their intention was to advance the US’ security agenda by weakening EEC states; - Kissinger intervened in the Committee of Twenty’s negotiations to delay agreement on international monetary reform (despite the US being on the verge of achieving its objectives) until European states had acceded to what he wanted on security in the “Year of Europe” negotiations. Delay killed US plans to return to fixed exchange rates; - hegemonic stability theory-based explanations of events are challenged by the US terminating its Bretton Woods regime, persuading follower states to introduce generalised floating and blocking international monetary reform; - structural Realist and Marxist narratives of the crisis are challenged, inter alia, by President Ford abandoning Nixon’s attempts to strengthen US hegemony in favour of a laissez-faire solution to the international monetary crisis; - the decisions creating the basis of a neoliberal international monetary order (the introduction of floating exchange rates and free capital mobility) were taken for US international security or domestic political reasons, as neoclassical realism theory would predict. These decisions had profound economic consequences, but were not taken for economic reasons.
Supervisor: Stokes, Douglas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: International relations ; International Political Economy ; International Monetary relations ; hegemony ; Bretton Woods