As promised, it's time for the 2009 Albies -- the best writing on the global political economy this past year. My focus was on accessible work that focused on the here and now as opposed to more ahistorical, theoretical efforts (which is the norm in my little corner of the academic universe).
Given the convulsions of the past year, there was a bounty of good material -- I couldn't condense this list down to just five articles. So, instead, below are the ten articles and arguments that I couldn't shake.
In chronological order of their appearance:
1. Michael Mastanduno, "System Maker and Privilege Taker: U.S. Power and the International Political Economy," World Politics, January 2009. A concise and prescient explanation for why this crisis is different from the crises of the past sixty years. Mastanduno's primary reason: the U.S. doesn't have the same ability to deflect and displace the costs of adjustment that it did in the past. A concise explanation for how state power affects the contours of the global political economy.
2. Justin Fox, The Myth of the Rational Market, Harper Collins. Fox traces the intellectual arc of the efficient markets hypothesis, and shows how it evolved into a caricature of itself by the time the 2008 financial crisis hit.
3. Mathew J. Burrows and Jennifer Harris, "Revisiting the Future: Geopolitical Effects of the Financial Crisis," The Washington Quarterly, April 2009. Some of the primary authotrs of the National Intelligence Council's 2025 report offers an addendum to consider how the 2008 financial crisis will affect long term strategic trends.
4. Simon Johnson, "The Quiet Coup," The Atlantic, May 2009. Johnson's argument is pretty simple -- politicians in the United States are acting under the powerrful influence of the financial sector. This argument is derivative of past work (see Jeffry Frieden, Charles Lindblom, and some guy named Karl), but Johnson still packs a powerful gut punch. The comparison between the U.S. now and the financial wrecks bailed out by the IMF is disturbing. I'm not convinced by Johnson's argument -- but I can't shake it either.
5. Stephen Roach, "Manchurian Paradox," The National Interest, May/June 2009. In many ways, this is the Chinese doppelgänger to Johnson's essay on the United States. Roach explains quite clearly how the leadership in Beijing is refusing to acknowledge that it's growth model is not sustainable, and the costs to the global economy of those failures of recognition. Michael Pettis, Eswar Prasad, and Martin Wolf have also made this argument -- but Roach's essay is accessible to all.
6. Joshua Kurlantzick, "The World is Bumpy," The New Republic, July 15, 2009. A well-researched essay on the ways in which the Great Recession has triggered "de-globalization" -- and the costs that this has exacted on those small developing countries that have staked the most on global economic openness.
7. Barry Eichengreen, "The Dollar Dilemma," Foreign Affairs, September/October 2009. During a moment when anxiety about the dollar's status as a reserve currency was at its peak, Eichengreen was able to explain precisely why the dollar is going to be around for quite some time.
8. Clive Cookson, Gillian Tett and Chris Cook, "Organic Mechanics," Financial Times, November 26, 2009. If efficient market approaches fail to explain the boom/bust nature of financial markets, trhen what can? This article doesn't provide a definitive answer, but it does explore the ways in which economic thought might prosper if it borrowed from a science other than physics.
9. Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air," Paramount, December 2009. Maybe this is cheating -- Up in the Air is a work of fiction, not a nonfiction essay -- and it's an imperfect film at that. However, the scenes in which the protagonists visit the places where they have to engage in mass layoffs is quite affecting. For me, there was a simple five-second shot of an office floor that demonstrated the dramatic contraction some firms have encountered in the post-bubble era. Those five seconds are a far more graphic way of explaining the past year in the economy than anything else I've seen.
10. Mark Lynas, "How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room," The Guardian, December 22, 2009. I'm not sure what to make of Lynas' account of how China scuppered a more ambitious cimate change deal at Copenhagen. I suspect it's the truth but not the whole truth. What's interesting about this essay, however, is the ways in which it suggests China's strategy of lying low and maintaining developing country solidarity on matters of global economic governance is not going to work any more.
OK, dear readers, did I miss anything important?