While the media gear up for reporting on how Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) will be exchanging a luxury suite at the Times Square Sofitel for more confined quarters on Rikers Island, BBC News has begun speculations on who will take over as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They consider ten likely candidates; but, while they frame the decision in terms of whether the new Managing Director will be based in Europe or in a developing nation, my guess is that all the names floated by the BBC have one thing in common. They all would be right at home rubbing all the right shoulders whenever the rich and mighty of the World Economic Forum convene.
This seems to be a good time to revisit a comment made by Manfred Max-Neef, author of Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics, when he was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! in November of 2010:
Economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don’t understand poverty.
I am sure that there is no shortage of well-educated and intellectually keen economists out there; but perhaps this is a good time for the IMF to reflect on what it wants its priorities to be. My guess is that current thinking is that the highest priority is for every country in the world to achieve a respectable rate of economic growth. Max-Neef’s point, however, is that such a priority says nothing about the existence and proliferation of poverty. Only Muhammad Yunus has managed to achieve a high profile in the news through his efforts to address the problem of poverty (regardless of how successful those efforts have been); and he has been scrupulously ignored by both the World Economic Forum and G20 meetings.
One of the reasons that DSK may be in the soup that currently engulfs him is that, however skilled he may have been in addressing problems of signification posed by economic models, his personal life was ruled by priorities of domination (drawing upon the terminology of Anthony Giddens to emphasize the distinction). Whether or not the developing world is “recognized” through a representative in charge of the IMF, the Fund will still have an agenda that reflects such priorities of domination, specifically domination over the poor. Since Yunus has just been pushed out of the very job that he created, a shift in IMF priorities might be a situation advantageous for an innovative thinker out of work, not to mention all those people around the world who remain hopelessly (and helplessly) mired in poverty.