World Politics

Review Article

The Political Economy of Global Finance Capital

Richard Deega1 and Mary A. O'Sullivana2*

a1 Temple University, Email:

a2 Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Email:

Rawi Abdelal. 2007. Capital Rules: The Construction of Global Finance. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 320 pp.

Peter Gourevitch and James Shinn. 2005. Political Power and Corporate Control: The New Global Politics of Corporate Governance. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 344 pp.

Nicolas Jabko. 2006. Playing the Market: A Political Strategy for Uniting Europe, 1985–2005. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 206 pp.

Jonathan Kirshner, ed. 2003. Monetary Orders: Ambiguous Economics, Ubiquitous Politics. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 319 pp.

Timothy Sinclair. 2005. The New Masters of Capital: American Bond Rating Agencies and the Politics of Creditworthiness. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 208 pp.

Daniel Verdier. 2002. Moving Money: Banking and Finance in the Industrialized World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 311 pp.


The globalization of finance in recent years and the concurrent growth in the financial sector's influence, manifested most dramatically in the recent financial crisis, highlights the importance for political scientists of understanding the political economy of global finance. The authors review six important books that are representative of recent thinking by political scientists on the topic. They address the central questions that have been at the heart of the literature on global finance from its beginning in new and interesting ways. The most important developments highlighted in this article are the move from a predominant focus on state-centered patterns of regulation to the consideration of transnational governance regimes that mix public and private regulation; the effort to understand the causal forces that shape the political economy of global finance by allowing for an interaction among interests, institutions, and ideas; and giving increased attention to new sources of systemic risk in the global financial system, as well to the consequences for domestic politics of interactions with the global financial system. Notwithstanding the progress that has been made in coming to grips with the political economy of global finance, the authors highlight a number of questions that need to be addressed in future research. Although various nonstate actors have been recognized as important in the constitution of the rules of global finance, it is also necessary to understand the behavior of the actors who enact these rules. It is also important to generate evidence that forges some agreement on the causes of the globalization of finance, especially as the arguments made become more complex. Finally, there is a need for a more realistic assessment of the costs and benefits of financialization at the global and national levels. This last challenge is essential for a thorough understanding of the current global financial crisis.

Richard Deeg is a professor of political science at Temple University. His publications include Finance Capitalism Unveiled: Banks and the German Political Economy (1999). He has also published numerous journal articles on German and European political economy, financial market change, and federalism. His current research focuses on causes and mechanisms of institutional change in financial systems.

Mary A. O'Sullivan is an associate professor in management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Contests for Corporate Control: Corporate Governance and Economic Performance in the United States and Germany (2000) and is working on her second book, tentatively titled, Bonding and Sharing Corporate America: Securities Markets, Industrial Dynamics and Corporate Enterprise, 1885–1930. She has also published a variety of journal articles on the history and theory of corporate governance, comparative financial systems, and the history of corporate finance and securities markets.


* The authors wish to acknowledge Rebecca Evans, Orfeo Fioretos, Elliot Posner, and three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. We retain sole responsibility for remaining errors.