Cornell grad wins Peter Katzenstein Book Prize

Stephen Nelson headshot

Stephen C. Nelson (2009), an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has won the 2018 Peter Katzenstein Book Prize for his book The Currency of Confidence: How Economic Beliefs Shape the IMF's Relationship with Its Borrowers (Cornell, 2017).

From the prize's web page on the Cornell Department of Government website: 

The Currency of Confidence is an outstanding and innovative analysis of the political economy of decision making by the International Monetary Fund. Nelson argues convincingly that the IMF is not the apolitical technocracy that its advocates would have us believe, but rather, guided by an insular set of American-trained economists, the Fund makes policy choices (and political decisions) driven by a shared set of economic beliefs.

Moreover, whether or not those beliefs are shared by elites in countries seeking assistance from the IMF has a formative effect on the nature of and prospects for that support. Or, as Nelson explains, “put simply, the IMF has played favorites with its borrowers.”

Combining extensive archival research and meticulous quantitative analysis, Currency of Confidence shows how the reach of the IMF extends even beyond shaping the economic policies of its borrowers and influences who actually gets to govern local economies as well. Displaying a remarkable command of relevant economic theory (and its limitations), a knowing sensitivity to the influence of power, and an effortless facility with the politics of ideas and institutional behavior, Nelson’s first book is a model of scholarship in political economy.

The Katzenstein Prize, in honor of in honor of Peter J. Katzenstein, the Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. Professor of International Studies at Cornell, recognizes an outstanding first book in international relations, comparative politics, or political economy. The prize was established on the occasion of Katzenstein’s 40th year at Cornell and has been made possible by the generous support of his colleagues, collaborators, and former students.

Katzenstein is a longtime collaborator with various programs at the Einaudi Center. The Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. professorship is one of four endowed chairs administered by the center.