Normalizing pathologies of difference : the discursive function of IMF conditionality


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




This thesis aims to complicate conventional understandings of the way in which the "conditionally" of the International Monetary Fund operates in relation to North/South relations. Part One is comprised of three sections. The first section is a brief introduction to the context of the project, namely the need to re-examine the contemporary roles of international economic institutions in what is perceived to be a globalizing economic environment. The second section provides an outline of the methodologies being used in the paper. In this regard, the author will explain the need to compile a historical genealogy of the legal development of Fund conditionality vis a vis the South, and describe the interdisciplinary approaches to discourse analysis taken in the paper. The third section briefly sets out the origins of the International Monetary Fund and provides a background to the Fund's conditionality. Part Two is a detailed account, or historical genealogy, of the way in which the IMF became involved in the business of lending to the South. This account is directed at tracing the transformation of the Fund through what the author considers to be three major developments in the evolution of Fund conditionality. The transformation which the author argues took place was a transformation of the role of the Fund from an institution concerned primarily with managing monetary institutions between industrialised nations to a surveillance organisation directed at providing information about the Third World to the First World. Part Three takes the idea of the contemporary role of the Fund as a surveillance organisation revealed in the preceding section and explores what discursive functions the Fund might be performing in the context of the relationship between North and South. In this regard the author identifies two major themes underlying IMF discourse about the Third World both of which suggest that an underlying sense of danger of the Third World is felt by the First World, and that this sense of danger replicates older fears. The author then examines the discursive practices employed to address these fears and the extent to which they too resonate with older discursive strategies. The author then considers why the reoccurrence of these older discursive technologies might be problematic. Part Four provides some closing comments about the insights gained from the preceding analysis. In doing so, it offers a tentative suggestion for how we might productively disrupt the colonial continuum of which the discursive practices described above seem to form part.


International Monetary Fund; International Monetary Fund -- History; International Monetary Fund -- Developing countries; Loans, Foreign -- Developing countries

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