In recent years there has been an upswing in interest in the reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In contrast to its earlier years, the IMF today exists in an international environment populated by a wide variety of public and private sector international institutions that compete with and complement the work done by the IMF. A key factor in the IMF's performance and future prospects is its relationship with these institutions. This paper analyzes institutional developments in the IMF's environment, linking these with broader contemporary social trends, and drawing conclusions about the significance of these developments for IMF reform. These social trends include a shift from hierarchies to networks, a recognition of the socially constructed character of knowledge and the growing importance of this knowledge relative to material resources, and a shift from a reliance on US hegemony to multilateralism. The paper argues that the IMF has taken some modest steps in its work to include these considerations and enhance its relationship with other institutions, but these elements need to be included in the process of IMF reform to a much greater degree. The author argues for a focus on global production and value chains, as well the new transnational division of labour.

  • Tony Porter is Professor and Chair of Political Science at McMaster University.