The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is the least written about and least well understood of the global multilateral economic institutions. Paradoxically, leading commentators ceaselessly refer to the centrality of the OECD to contemporary global governance, yet rarely has the organization been the subject of sustained academic scrutiny. For instance, Joseph Nye (2002: 144) argued that the OECD, in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), provides ‘a framework of rules for the global economy’. Similarly, Held et al. (1999: 84) cite the OECD among the ‘key multilateral economic fora’ common to all ‘states in advanced capitalist societies’. Nevertheless, having identified the importance of the OECD, these and many other observers proceed to marginalize the role of the organization preferring instead to focus on the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. Equally, as the other contributions to this volume testify, book-length accounts of the activities of the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank and other leading institutions such as the Group of 7/8 (G7/8), which now has an entire book series devoted to it, are commonplace. In contrast, apart from a smattering of texts authored by the OECD’s own staff (OECD 1971; Sullivan 1997) and a small literature examining the organization’s role in the global trading system (Blair 1993; Cohn 2002), the last single-authored book written in English by an outsider and focussing exclusively on the OECD’s role in global affairs was published nearly forty years ago (Aubrey 1967; Woodward 2007a). More specialized work detailing the history and evolution of transatlantic governance is largely devoid of references to the OECD. One contributor to Gardner and Stefanova’s collection The New Transatlantic Agenda (2001) asserts that ‘the “OECD world” is, first of all, a transatlantic world’ (May 2001: 185) but there is only one further reference to the organization in the volume. Pollack and Shaffer’s (2001) Transatlantic Governance in the Global Economy and Richard Cooper’s (1968) classic study of economic management among the Atlantic community, The Economics of Interdependence, provide greater coverage of the OECD and its predecessor the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) but again these references are sporadic and fragmented. A cursory survey of articles published in the last decade by what, according to the ISI Social Sciences Citation Index, are the
twenty highest impact international relations journals reveals a comparable pattern (see Table 3.1). In purely quantitative terms the OECD does not fair too badly. The WTO is clearly the frontrunner, being the subject of 211 articles during the period, but the OECD with thirty-four articles is only slightly behind the IMF (48) and is ahead of the World Bank (26) and the G7/8 (5). However, only 15 of these 34 articles contain substantive material about the organization, its work or its broader contribution to global governance. The remaining articles were using OECD countries as a basis for comparison. Finally, the OECD lacks the public profile associated with other international organizations. Anti-globalization protests have marred OECD gatherings in Paris (February 1998), Bologna (June 2000) and Naples (March 2001) but typically OECD meetings are low-key affairs passing off without the media comment, sabre rattling and general razzmatazz that accompany the IMF, WTO and the G8.