An author who tries to write an engaging book about the International Monetary Fund faces a daunting task. Who besides devoted readers of The Financial Times would want to read it? With The Chastening, however, Paul Blustein offers a remarkably accessible account of this off-putting institution and its importance to the world economy. "The IMF cultivates its mystique, seeking to appear all-knowing, scientific, and detached. To outsiders, it often comes across as a high priesthood with pretensions of divine powers and insight," he writes. Blustein tears down this façade as he recounts some of the epic struggles of recent years: "As markets were sinking and defaults looming, the guardians of global financial stability were often scrambling, floundering, improvising, and striking messy compromises." Through dozens of interviews with IMF insiders, Blustein reveals how the institution really works--and how it often doesn't. There are fast-paced stories of success and failure on these pages, as Blustein describes efforts to bail out faltering economies in Korea, Russia, and elsewhere. Best of all, readers don't need economics degrees to keep pace: anybody who simply wants a primer on global financial systems will be well served by Blustein. --John Miller
From Library Journal
While not an economic treatise, this marvelous work by Washington Post staff writer Blustein provides an in-depth look at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and its 1997-99 crisis-fighting efforts in Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, and Brazil. Using firsthand interviews, the author provides a brief history of the IMF, a critical look at the institutions and mechanisms involved in IMF programs, and an effective portrayal of their relationship with other key players in international finance, including the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the G-7, and the World Bank. Noting that the IMF was created to help countries correct problems in their economic fundamentals, the author contends that, owing to globalization, liberalization of the international currency market, and the emergence of what the author describes as the "Electronic Herd" of nontraditional economic interests, institutions like the IMF must adapt to ever-increasing challenges and evolve to meet these challenges. To this end, Blustein offers a number of noteworthy ideas for solving existing problems and fixing the international financial architecture. Recommended for both academic and public libraries. Norm Hutcherson, California State Univ., Bakersfield
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