Fast Words and Slow Deeds: Reformist Pitchforks, Utilitarian Plowshares and the Limits to Financial Reform after the Global Financial Crisis

Stream: Panel 36 - International Relations: From Words to Deeds in Global Governance? 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


Following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a U.S. popular consensus emerged to stress the need for executive pay reform - as given voice in the bipartisan principled appeals of Bush and Obama officials alike. Yet, such reforms would soon be abandoned as threats to recovery – a reversal which calls into question theoretical views of crises as spurring self-reinforcing change. To explain this tendency to reformist retrenchment, I offer a social psychological analysis, premised on assumptions that agents use shifting, flawed ‘heuristics’ to interpret events. Building on the work of Daniel Kahneman, I argue that initial ‘fast’ principled responses to events often yield to ‘slow’ intellectual counter-reactions. Turning to the Global Financial Crisis, I trace Obama’s principled appeals for macroprudential measures, the Geithner Treasury’s utilitarian resistance, and evolving debates across the Federal Reserve, Financial Stability Oversight Council, and Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program - suggesting that the distance between words and deeds may be reduced across iterations of debate.


Wesley Widmaier (Presenter), Griffith University
Wesley Widmaier is an Associate Professor at the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University