In Pursuit of Liberalism: International Institutions in Postcommunist Europe

In This Review

In Pursuit of Liberalism: International Institutions in Postcommunist Europe
By Rachel A. Epstein
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008
288 pp. $55.00
Purchase

Theorists and politicians like to think that international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and NATO, can have a decisive impact on the domestic institutional choices of aspiring member states, prodding them toward democracy and free-market capitalism. Epstein agrees with this perspective but argues that it is borne out only in the right circumstances. Before the conditions of membership set by these institutions can shape the behavior of supplicant states, the circumstances have to be favorable, and Epstein emphasizes three: the disorienting effects of change in the postsocialist state must leave the local elites ready for outside guidance; the international institutions must be seen as knowing better than they do what to do; and, to be convincing, the international institutions must convey a coherent and consistent message. She draws this conclusion by comparing the effects of international institutions on four countries (Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine) in four areas: achieving an independent central bank, internationalizing the banking system, promoting civilian control over the military, and broadening defense planning beyond narrow national concerns. Combining some aspects of materialist and ideational theories while rejecting others, her theoretical framework produces an interesting fusion.