Professor Susan Strange
It is with much sadness that I report the death of Professor Susan Strange on 25 October last year. But it is also with some pride that I say that the research for her last work was supported by the GEI Programme. Mad Money, the sequel to her best-selling work, Casino Capitalism, was published by Manchester University Press two weeks before her death.
Susan was one of the dominant scholars in Britain’s international relations community and one of the world’s leading specialists in the modern study of international political economy. She was, in turn: journalist (with the Economist and Observer); Lecturer in International Relations at University College, London; Director of the Transnational Relations project at Chatham House; and Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics. In retirement she then became Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at the European University Institute in Florence, and finally Professorial Fellow in International Political Economy at Warwick University. She was renowned as an author and speaker not only in the UK but also in the USA, Japan and many other countries where she was regarded as an academic pioneer.
Susan was no respecter of conventional wisdoms. The unorthodox nature of her work - and her personality - provoked a very wide range of responses, in both the scholarly and the policy community. But her irreverence - and her frequently mischievous observations - never obscured the seriousness of her work. I can vouch for this, having got to know her only very recently through the GEI programme: what I most enjoyed about working with her was the strange combination which she brought to her work of mischief-making and commitment. Even those who do not accept her reading of the modern global economic order concede the originality of her thinking. Those readers who would like to read more about Susan’s life and work can find an obituary on the website of the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at Warwick University at http://www.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/CSGR/Obituary.html .
Mad Money concentrates on the changes which have occurred in the global financial system in the ten years since her Casino Capitalism was written. It begins with an argument that these changes have been driven by technological change. The following chapters contest much recent work by economists on financial regulation, by arguing that the main weaknesses in the system are not technical nor institutional, but political: two chapters discuss weaknesses in the US- Japanese relationship and in the Franco-German one. Then two central chapters discuss financial regulation at the national and inter-state levels. These too contest conventional wisdom. They argue that both technological innovations and imperatives towards risk-taking in the private sector have seriously eroded the effectiveness of national regulatory systems. At the international level it is argued that the Bank of International Settlements has largely abdicated its supervisory role to the Banks themselves and that the IMF has been forced to take on regulatory functions for which it is not qualified. Three further chapters discuss additional themes: international debt, the volatility of stock markets, and the penetration of the system by organised crime. A concluding chapter discusses alternative scenarios, and also “what is to be done”.
Of course, Susan’s last book appears at a time of severe crash in the global economy. As a result this is a time when the self-confident advice of the “Washington concensus” - “free-up trade, practice sound money, and go gome early” - has been found wanting. As reassessment of this consensus gets underway, Susan’s voice and her argument about the inter-relationship between economic systems and political structures will continue to be heard. But Susan herself will be much missed.