The Economic Government of the World: 1933-2023 (Hardcover)
Foreign Affairs Best Books of the Year (2023)
An epic history of the people and institutions that have built the global economy since the Great Depression.
In this vivid landmark history, the distinguished economic historian Martin Daunton pulls back the curtain on the institutions and individuals who have created and managed the global economy over the last ninety years, revealing how and why one economic order breaks down and another is built. During the Great Depression, trade and currency warfare led to the rise of economic nationalism—a retreat from globalization that culminated in war. From World War II came a new, liberal economic order. Squarely reflecting the interests of the West in the Cold War, liberalism faced collapse in the 1970s and was succeeded by neoliberalism, financialization, and hyper-globalization.
Now, as leading nations are tackling the fallout from Covid-19 and threats of inflation, food insecurity, and climate change, Daunton calls for a return to a more just and equitable form of globalization. Western imperial powers have overwhelmingly determined the structures of world economic government, often advancing their own self-interests and leading to ruinous resource extraction, debt, poverty, and political and social instability in the Global South. He argues that while our current economic system is built upon the politics of and between the world’s biggest economies, a future of global recovery—and the reduction of economic inequality—requires the development of multilateral institutions.
Dramatic and revelatory, The Economic Government of the World offers a powerful analysis of the origins of our current global crises and a path toward a fairer international order.
“[A] capacious and timely history . . . Offering us a realistic assessment of what American-led governance of the world economy actually entails, Daunton’s account is essential reading. Postheroic and disillusioned, this is a history for our times.” —Adam Tooze, Financial Times
“A brilliant political, economic and intellectual history that traces the turning points in global economic governance, from the Great Depression to Bretton Woods, from the disorder of the 1970s to the neoliberal triumph of the 1980s and today’s perilous malaise.” —Max Harris, Times Literary Supplement
"[A] sweeping study of international economic institutions . . . Tackling a mountain of material on this complex subject in lucid, elegant prose, Daunton spotlights the constant tension between the elite goal of global economic efficiency and voters’ demands on national governments for equality, stable jobs, or welfare spending. The result is a robust history that elucidates the human impact of the machinery of global trade and finance." —Publishers Weekly
“The Economic Government of the World is a tour de force. It lets us see the evolving architecture of global economic governance over the last hundred years—the various architects and the designs they favoured, the scaffolding going up (and down), the technicians responsible for fitting out the floors, and the cracks emerging in the walls and foundations. Both in terms of chronological scope and thematic range, I know of no book like it. It is a hugely ambitious and timely work.” —Frank Trentmann, author of Empire of Things
“Martin Daunton’s history of global economic government is rigorous, engaging and astonishing in its range. It shows why any arrangement of the international economic system unavoidably involves political compromise-and concludes with a wise vision of “messy multilateralism” as a path out of our current crisis. A brilliant and important book.” —Sunil Amrith, author of Unruly Waters
“Daunton’s magisterial history is an urgent reminder of the sources and dangers of economic and financial disorder, revealing the interconnections between trade, money, population and development and the hard-fought struggles of leading capitalist democracies to embed the lessons of the past in international institutions. With our world at a critical juncture, the book is a chilling reminder of the risks we face, while offering a positive vision of the way forward.” —Patricia Clavin, author of Securing the World Economy