Wilson Center Experts

Kathryn C. Lavelle

United States Studies

North America
United States
Ellen and Dixon Long Associate Professor of World Affairs, Case Western Reserve University
Wilson Center Project(s):
"Legislating for International Organizations: The US Congress and the Bretton Woods Financial Institutions"
Sep 01, 2008
May 01, 2009

My interests in the politics of international finance were sparked by various jobs I held during school breaks from Georgetown University at a large bank headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Nearing graduation, I passed the written and oral components of the US foreign service exam and subsequently began graduate study at the University of Virginia waiting to join the Department of State as an economics officer.

Between the first and second years of the M.A. program, I served as an intern in the political and economic section of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. My appointment to the foreign service came through the following March; nonetheless the same week I was also offered a multiple-year fellowship to pursue a Ph.D. at Northwestern University. Northwestern's excellence in African studies and my growing love of teaching led me to choose the latter course.

Toward the close of my Ph.D. studies, I became critical of a growing body of political science literature on international finance that emphasized "developing countries"; however these studies did not consider countries on the African continent. To further investigate these differences, the West Africa Research Association (WARA) awarded me a fellowship in the summer of 1999 so that I could study the stock market in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. When applying for the fellowship, I proposed an article on the regional stock exchange and initial research for a book-length study on stock markets in the developing world. The book would take as its premise developing countries' historical experiences with industrialization, as opposed to the historical experiences of developed countries. Thus, it would highlight the involvement of the IMF and World Bank in these processes. Combining insights concerning state control of territory with the practical functioning of capital markets in previously unexamined countries, I used my background in economics and politics to challenge existing theories of the formation of a capital market price mechanism in corporate governance across a spectrum of literature in law, political science, and economics. Oxford University Press published the results in The Politics of Equity Finance in Emerging Markets (November 2004).

I conducted research for the first book and journal articles while teaching at two universities. Initially I taught at Cleveland State University where, among other courses, I had responsibility for teaching American Politics. When a tenure-track position at Case Western Reserve University opened, I was recruited for it. Nonetheless, teaching basic political science courses in American politics at Cleveland State had the unintentional, yet immensely positive, effect of forcing me to confront a body of literature I had only cursory knowledge of before that time. Moreover, I learned first-hand from my students at Cleveland State about the profound human costs of the expansion of international trade on those who work in the manufacturing and steel industries in both developed and developing countries. Since I have been at Case, I began to work on the project I will complete at the Wilson Center.

While many scholars have investigated financial politics and the growing role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in international organizations, few have had the opportunity to observe how many of the same banking, financial, and non-profit groups operate to influence legislatures in advanced, industrial democracies, sometimes in con¬cert, sometimes in competition. In order to observe the relations among them from the perspective of the US Congress, I was awarded a Congressional Fellowship from the American Political Science Association. Next, I obtained a placement on the majority staff of the House Committee on Financial Services with responsibility for the Domestic and International Monetary Policy subcommittee. In this capacity, I was able to assist in planning IMF and World Bank hearings, as well as work on authorization legislation and financial divestment legislation concerning Darfur.

My year at the Wilson Center will afford me the opportunity to complete a book on the relationship between Congress and the IMF and World Bank since their founding.Specifically, I will conduct a historical review of the Congressional hearings on the IMF and World Bank, archival research, and interview policymakers who have been active on these issues inside and outside the legislative branch. The result will inform a theoretical investigation of the interplay between domestic and international political institutions in the issue-area of global finance. Moreover, it will combine insights from my own substantive work experience inside the US political system with documentary sources to make a theoretical contribution to studies of multilateralism in international relations.



B.S.F.S. cum laude, International Economics, Georgetown University; M.A., Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia; Ph.D., Political Science, Northwestern University


  • William A. Steiger Fellow, American Political Science Association, 2006-07
  • Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University, 2006-present
  • Visiting Research Scholar, Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, City University of NY, 2003
  • Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University, 2002-06
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University, 2001-02
  • West Africa Research Association (WARA) Fellow, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, 1999
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Cleveland State University, 1997-2001


Globalization and finance; stock markets in developing countries; US foreign economic policy; Congress and international economic policy; IMF; World Bank

Project Summary

Multilateralism holds great potential to resolve con¬temporary transnational issues. Yet international organizations are plagued by governance questions associated with their lack of democratic accountability. This project will trace Congressional involvement in the Bretton Woods financial institution in order to explore the connection between legislatures in democratic donor states and the international organizations they fund, and to consider broader questions of democratic processes in international relations. It will draw upon the archival record, Congressional hearing records, and interviews with policymakers in funding the IMF and World Bank.

Major Publications

  • The Politics of Equity Finance in Emerging Markets. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • "Congress in the World: Benefits of the Congressional Fellowship Program for the Study of International Relations," Perspectives on Politics, Volume 6, No. 3, pp 537-549.
  • "Architecture of Equity Markets:The Abidjan Regional Bourse," International Organization, Volume 55, No. 3 (Summer 2001) pp. 717-742.
  • "The International Finance Corporation and the Emerging Markets Funds Industry," Third World Quarterly, vol.21(2), pp.193-213(2000)

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