Pre-Judging an Institution’s Implicit Strategy by the Director’s Private Behaviour
SPOTLIGHT, 23 May 2011
by Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service
Remarkable parallels in the case of the IMF and Dominique Strauss-Kahn
The International Monetary Fund is one of the most central features of the international financial system and of the response of the international community to countries in crisis. It has been described as one of the enforcers of globalization. Together with the World Bank, it is one of the Bretton Woods institutions and as such has been identified with the so-called Washington Consensus. It has been the subject of extensive criticism (What are the main concerns and criticism about the World Bank and IMF? Bretton Woods project, 2005; Noam Chomsky, IMF and World Bank: Tools of the Neoliberal Onslaught, 2000). Critics have notably been apprehensive of its role in shaping the development discourse.
These concerns have been usefully framed by the much-cited call by UNICEF for structural adjustment “with a human face” to complement the prescriptions of the IMF (UNICEF, Development with a Human Face, 1997).
The criminal charges in 2011, including sexual violence, against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (“DSK), Managing Director of the IMF, have ironically given a very “human face” to the IMF itself. These follow a pattern of allegations of sexual misconduct in his case, widely known to journalists and politicians who have felt constrained to avoid public mention of the matter. The nature of the violence might also be interpreted as offering a human-scale exemplification of “structural adjustment” as imposed on vulnerable parties.
The question explored here is whether there are useful parallels to be recognized between the strategic policies pursued by the IMF over the years — both publicly and discretely — and those exemplified by the behaviour of its Managing Director, again both publicly and privately. Any such parallels would be especially noteworthy to the extent that they reflect the unchallenged attitudes of the powerful to those who are relatively vulnerable — and whose vulnerability is exacerbated in consequence. Fruitful questions include:
- In the particular case, is there an argument for judging the IMF as an institution through the judgments made against the person of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, as its Managing Director?
- As in any engagement for such a prominent position, was his widely known personal behaviour deemed to be necessarily consistent with the organizational culture and strategic policies of the IMF?
- In the larger scheme of things, has DSK (as the chosen “champion” of the IMF in the legendary sense) been elicited by a psychosocial process to enable, through his person, “the trial which would otherwise never happen”?
- At some profound level, does the world need charges of institutional “rape” of the developing world, by the international community’s “IMF culture” and the Washington Consensus, to be appropriately investigated?
- Does the dramatic embodiment by DSK enable justice to be seen to be done in what has been identified as an essentially “unconscious” global civilization (cf John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1999)?
- By taking on the charges against the international community, is the process to be fruitfully understood as a form of poetic justice — a symbolic catharsis — through which larger systemic issues can be made globally evident?
- Can the trial process be usefully understood as a means for institutional society to explore self-reflexively its implication in the violence of which it is accused by the most vulnerable of the world? Is it “through” DSK that society is offering itself an understanding of larger issues and their implication?
- In putting DSK “to the question”, who indeed is being placed on trial?
With respect to the appropriateness of the legal processes against an individual required to prove his innocence in the face of the accusations and formal allegations, it might be asked whether an institution — accused in a similar manner — should effectively “have its hands tied” and be incarcerated with those already convicted, until it can prove its innocence.
Current acknowledgement of the seriousness of any form of rape
Anthony Judge is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Developoment and Environment.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.