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date: 18 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Historical institutionalism highlights the prevalence of incremental change in international governance. This chapter reinforces this point through an examination of a particularly hard case: the iconic creation of the postwar Bretton Woods international monetary and financial system. Although the 1944 Bretton Woods agreements are widely seen to be a product of power, interests and ideas at a unique historical moment, they were also shaped by a set of incremental institutional changes that pre-dated the negotiations and left important legacies. The Bretton Woods agreements emerged less from a specific moment than from a longer “critical juncture” dating back to the Great Depression.

Keywords: Bretton Woods, money, finance, incrementalism, institutions

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