Current Scholarship
World Maps for the Debt Paradigm: Risk Ranking the Poorer Nations in the 1970s

image_print

Author: Quinn Slobodian

This article offers a new account of the rise of the ranked nation-state through a genealogy of the category of country risk, which emerged in the 1970s as part of a response to the explosion of sovereign borrowing of petrodollars by Global South and Eastern bloc countries. Incorporating intangible qualities like political stability and the social fabric through a version of environmental scanning, country risk ratings quantified both the ability and the willingness of sovereigns to repay their debts. Adopted by the US Federal Reserve as a means of imposing the rule of law on global finance in the run-up to the Third World debt crisis, country risk returned in the research of the 1990s as a proxy for good governance, transforming the subjective impressions of managers and bankers into objective realities with policy effects.

Slobodian, Quinn, World Maps for the Debt Paradigm: Risk Ranking the Poorer Nations in the 1970s, Critical Historical Studies, Volume 8, Number 1 (Spring 2021) March 24, 2021). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1086/713524