The managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), arguably the world’s most powerful institution, was recently arrested for sexually assaulting an African woman. French journalist Tristane Banon also accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape ten years ago. The irony is palpable. Yet, the news media and international community failed to address this grotesque manifestation of the misogyny endemic to the IMF’s hegemonic decision-making process. Strauss-Kahn’s absence was crudely depicted as an inconvenience to European economies.
Why has the behavior of the French politician gone publically unscrutinized in relation to the institution he represents? Many grassroots organizations, like Jubilee USA, feel that the IMF metaphorically rapes the developing world through Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) and International Debt relations. SAPs were impregnated in the global economic order through the Washington Consensus (1980-2009).
The Washington Consensus contained ten, standardized, neo-liberal economic prescriptions designed to promote ‘market-friendly’ economic policies in developing countries. Following the deregulation disaster that led to the global economic crisis the top-down Washington Consensus was replaced with the Seoul Consensus, which provides a larger role for state intervention. The Seoul Consensus is sensitized towards considering the needs of individual developing countries.
Yet, SAPs are still coercively imposed on poor countries through imbalanced debt-relations created by the granting of loans that promote the IMF’s agenda. In the IMF rich countries control how poor countries are allowed to prioritize their budget because of ‘conditionalities’ attached to loans and debt. Conditionalities enforce a free-market programs and policies such as the privatization of natural resources. Countries that fail to enact free-market policies are subject to punitive, fiscal sanctions. Despite the shift in politically correct rhetoric, codified in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, the IMF’s agenda and decision-making process is clearly structurally violent.
The direct violence perpetrated by Dominique Strauss-Kahn mirrors the structural violence inherent in the IMF’s misogynistic, hegemonic decision-making processes. These processes neglect and marginalize the needs of billions of impoverished people in the developing world. The courage of the African, immigrant victim to voice her experience of assault serves as a point of inspiration for marginalized communities who are the victims of natural resources privatization.
Note: The Guardian did point out an ironic element to this telling incident. The IMF seeks to reduce the rights of workers and weaken the power of unions because they are inefficient “labor market rigidities”. Ironically, the victim was protected by a union contract, which likely influenced her decision to press charges since she did not have to worry about losing her job.