The Second World War was, without doubt, the most destructive conflict in world history.
According to some estimates, anywhere from sixty to eighty million people, civilian and combatant alike, were killed. Through its carnage, the international community, long divided and discordant, emerged to combat expansionist and genocidal ambitions. As the immeasurable devastation of the war became omnipresent, those concerned with its administration turned their attention to the question of its aftermath. How must a world so thoroughly shaken by war rebuild? As no conflict before it compared in its scope or its brutality, no solution for reconstruction and development dreamt of before it would suffice. The international community as it existed would be tasked, be challenged, with developing an ambitious and viable solution to the difficulties that Western Europe and parts beyond would face. What was resolved was the need for an international system capable of handling economic and monetary regulation and development. What has yet to be resolved, however, are questions of that development, its intentions, and its lasting effects. In the case of the latter, the question is fixed upon international institutions, whose past acts shaped international norms and whose continued presence engenders deep mistrust and resentment among some in the community of states.
Of all the institutions envisioned as the Second World War waned and ended, few are considered as marring and as pervasive as those of the international economic development complex. By the international economic development complex, I mean not only the organizations meant to provide said aid, but also the governments financing those organizations as part of their international commitments; the two interconnected tiers of national governments and international organizations formally divorced from state interests form a network, a constellation of causes.
The constellation emerged initially to lift a battered Europe from the brink of collapse, and as the American government claimed, Communist dominion. As the scope of the Cold War expanded, so did that of the aid complex. Incorporating Latin America, Africa, and Asia in their plans, the several organizations of the complex offered both loans and technical expertise to an international community growing with the collapse of colonial systems. Such a combination of capital and knowledge provided organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund unprecedented power in the international system. As the twentieth century approached its end, so did the Communist presence the international economic development complex was largely claimed to counter. The Soviet Union's unexpected collapse created a tremendous demand for economic development among former Communist states, states which needed the expertise necessary to stabilize and expand their economies; such a situation required the international economic development complex. To understand...