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Seeing Like a Bank: A Money Lender’s Perspective on the End of the Cold War (2019-2020)

Author: GRAMA, Adrian
Field of study: History

How did international bankers see the end of the Cold War? How did they evaluate the trajectory of late socialist Eastern Europe? What might they contribute to our reassessment of 1989 in the newfound “global context”? This article unfolds in three steps. In the first one I provide a brief overview of the recent historiography on the global aspects of state socialism. Why, I ask, have historians turned to the optic of the global and what new topics of empirical research have they ferreted out in so doing? This is not meant as a balance-sheet.
This historiography is yet in its infancy and much more research will be needed before any reasonable stock-taking might be attempted. Rather, I merely want to point out that, on a conceptual level, capital is still a missing object of analytical focus. In the second part I let myself guided by international banker Lawrence Brainard through the maze of late socialist Eastern Europe’s financial affairs. This
is a heuristic exercise the role of which is to pick up on Brainard’s often sober analysis of Eastern Europe’s debt problems and raise afresh several questions about the region’s insertion in the global circuit of capital. Finally, in the last part, I reflect on Eastern Europe’s potential to serve as an archive of the world in which “capital has moved onto central stage”, and to illuminate the central tension of the Cold War, that between the politics of empire and the interests of capital.

Keywords: Cold War, Eastern Europe, state socialism, international banks, 1989

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