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Economic Liberalism and Its Rivals


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 (ISBN-13: 9780511501005)

Examines the critical role that the economic ideas of state leaders play in the creation and maintenance of the international economic order. Drawing on a detailed study of the fifteen post-Soviet states in their first decade of independence, interviews with key decision-makers and the use of closed ministerial archives, the book explores how the changing ideas of state officials led countries to follow one of three institutional paths: rapid entry into the World Trade Organization, participation in a regional Customs Union based on their prior Soviet ties, or autarky and economic closure. In doing so, the book traces the decisions that shaped the entry of these strategically important countries into the world economy and provides a novel theory of the role of ideas in international politics.

• An important empirical and theoretical contribution to Constructivist theories of international relations and the role of ideas therein • One of few works of international relations to be based on extensive archival and field research in nine post-Soviet states • Combines archival and statistical analysis in explaining the entry of all of post-Soviet Eurasia into the international system


Part I. Theory and Methodology: 1. A natural experiment; 2. A theory of international order; 3. Three international trajectories; 4. Liberalism and its rivals: history, typology, and measurement; Part II. Contingent Selection and Systematic Effects: Country-Level Analyses of Elite Selection, Ideational Change, and Institutional Choice, 1991–2002: 5. The Baltic states and Moldova; 6. Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine; 7. The Caucasus; 8. Central Asia; Part III. Comparing Cases: 9. Alternative explanations and statistical tests; 10. Smoking guns: a causal history of institutional choice; 11. Conclusions and implications of the analysis.


'This book is not only an important contribution to post-communist studies. It is also a deliberate attempt to chart a novel theoretical position that challenges current orthodoxies from the perspective of a scholarly tradition whose growth seems to have reached a new threshold of relevance.' Paul Dragos Aligica, Perspectives on Politics

'Why do different countries make different choices when it comes to international economic institutions? Darden sees the post-Soviet states as an ideal test case, because they began with similar characteristics and histories but nonetheless chose differently … International relations theorists will find the effort a genuine contribution to a key debate. General readers will benefit from what is the most thorough review available of the economic foreign policies of nearly all 15 former Soviet republics during the 1990s.' Robert Levgold, Foreign Affairs

'Drawing on the natural experiment that was the collapse of the USSR, this superb analysis of distinct economic trajectories among the former Soviet republics demonstrates that economic ideas led policymakers to adopt divergent policies regarding membership in international institutions. Darden's meticulously researched and incisively argued account transforms our understanding of post-communist policymaking, and of the causal role of ideas in institutional choice.' Anna Grzymala-Busse, University of Michigan

'Will the post-Soviet states join the global economy, reintegrate with Russia, or go it alone? At a time when Russia is attempting to reshape its 'near abroad,' Keith Darden has provided us a theoretically innovative and much-needed study of the foreign economic policies of countries about which we still know far too little.' Jeffrey Kopstein, University of Toronto

'The book has a clear and strong argument about the role of ideas in economic policymaking. The author traces how elites in the states to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union adopt different ideas and then make choices about how to interact with international institutions based on these ideas. The simultaneous creation of 15 states is a near perfect test of this kind of theory. This book fits into a much needed and growing literature on the role of actors and ideas as important independent variables in explaining political, social, and economic outcomes of any sort. It is particularly good at stressing the role of contingency in producing outcomes. This book could become a major text in shaping this academic debate and in teaching this kind of argument.' Michael McFaul, Stanford University

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