chapter  9
Additional categories of agency: ‘creative resisters’ to normative change in post- crisis global financial governance
Pages 19

Conceptualisations of normative change in constructivist International Relations (IR) have largely been informed by insights from the ‘high politics’ of both traditional state security and non-traditional human security. In order to inject insights from the ‘low politics’ of economic affairs into the debate this chapter examines key norm dynamics that have shaped global financial governance since the crisis of 2007-2008.2 Standards of appropriateness underlying the governance of this crucial sector of the global economy have long prioritised a reliance on the self-regulation of private actors and markets. Dominant liberal norms have entailed that financial markets function best when disciplined by the ‘invisible hand’ of the market rather than by strong public regulation. Despite financial crises of increasing scope and intensity since the 1970s, norms of market-based governance only became widely contested in 2007 with the onset of what was the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression. Nearly a decade since the initial outbreak of this crisis, however, liberal market norms have remained persistently dominant in global financial governance. How have such long-standing market-based governance norms endured in global finance following their central implication and contestation in the most recent period of turbulence? Various explanations for the post-2007 persistence of market-based norms in global financial governance have been put forward by scholars of International Political Economy. Path dependence and legacies from earlier reforms have been stressed (Porter 2011) along with the enduring pervasiveness of a ‘neo-liberal’ ideology (Mügge 2013). Such accounts are very useful for comprehending structural continuities constraining normative change since 2007. However the agency exercised by specific actors in both promoting and resisting shifts away from norms of market-based governance in post-crisis global finance has remained less well understood. In addressing this gap, this chapter examines forms of agency exercised since 2007 by various public, private and professional actors involved in the governance of global finance. The relevance of categories of ‘norm entrepreneurs’ and ‘norm antipreneurs’ for understanding the norm dynamics of global financial governance since the outbreak of the most recent period of crisis is first outlined. Attempts by civil society and state actors to shift away from long-standing

norms of market-based governance are illustrated. Contrasts are then made with the resistance to normative change undertaken by leading financial conglomerates. The analysis then turns towards what is identified as the ‘creative’ resistance exercised by leading professional service firms. Enhanced emphasis by these actors on religious and environmental niches of global finance since 2007 is considered as having countered efforts to shift standards of appropriateness underlying the governance of this sector away from norms of market selfregulation. By highlighting how the pre-crisis normative status quo is able to address a wider range of collective issues these ‘creative resisters’ oppose normative change through strategies associated with the promoters of normative change. A final section concludes by suggesting that the categories of norm antipreneur and norm entrepreneur may be most analytically useful when conceived as ideal types. Overemphasis on either rival category risks overlooking forms of agency falling at different points on a continuum between each extreme, such as the ‘creative resisters’ this chapter examines. Proposing that agency be understood as dynamically as norms themselves, this chapter ends by recommending that further categories be developed. The creative resisters may be merely one of many additional categories required to conceptualise forms of agency falling at varying points on a spectrum between ideal types of norm entrepreneurs and norm antipreneurs.