Based on a careful analysis of historical and contemporary capitalism in Zimbabwe, it has been shown that money and foreign currency management is deeply political. Hence, instead of being applicable to emerging markets only, there is a case for extending Alami’s work to developing countries in general. Alami’s book is highly recommended to anyone interested in understanding the functioning of money, finance, and indeed the logic of foreign exchange policies in sub-Saharan Africa.
Alami’s book is particularly good at the empirics (full disclosure: I was one of the referees of this article by Alami; if my memory is correct I recommended either an immediate acceptance or publication after minor revisions). He describes and explains the ways and lengths walked by governments of these countries to manage a significant conjuncture in their recent history.
Capitalism is a complex mode of production where general trends unfold as a multiplicity of social, political and economic levels that, more often than not, seem to be in contradiction with each other. It is therefore tempting to fall into the ideological trap of just remaining on the surface, describe phenomena at first sight and set aside any theoretical attempt to make sense of complexities and variegations. An apparent example of falling in this temptation are studies that present power as exclusive of the political sphere, thus detached from civil society (what we could nowadays call the economic sphere).
The heightened movement of financial capital across the globe, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis, has breathed new life into three long-standing, yet until recently side-lined, debates: the value of cross-border capital controls (increasingly discussed under the banner of ‘macroprudentialism’); dependency theory (key elements of which manifest in the emerging literature on ‘subordinate financialization’); and the role of the state in a capitalist system (discussed in various critical political economy literature, including the influential critical macro-finance scholarship). Alami’s book Money, Power, and Financial Capital in Emerging Markets: Facing the Liquidity Tsunami is a critical intervention into all three debates and serves as fertile ground for a critique of the capitalist state in a highly financialized global system.
I wrote this book as an attempt to think politically about the cross-border movement of money and financial flows in developing and emerging economies, in Africa and elsewhere. Much of the economics literature, whether mainstream or more critical, and whether scholarly or policy-oriented, tends to conceive of this topic as a technical question. If only emerging markets attracted the right amount of financial capital (neither too little nor too much) with the right quality-mix (a healthy balance between long-term and short-term flows), then financial crises, speculative bubbles, overborrowing, and other negative effects could be avoided, and global finance could be harnessed for development purposes. From this perspective, then, what is at stake for emerging markets is to implement the right policies, regulations, and institutions.
The developmental indices of certain countries are immaterial to their compliance levels. Nevertheless, this paper argues that economic development cannot be divorced from economic crime, and for this reason, it is paramount for the SDGs to give this the attention it deserves.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research Networking Scheme, the CLRN_N will host its inaugural conference on the 13th and 14th September 2019, at the University of Reading. It invites submissions on commercial law and policy reform in Nigeria