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Timothy J. Sinclair

Associate Professor of International Political Economy

BA & MA (Hons.) (Canterbury, New Zealand) Ph.D (York, Toronto) D.Litt (Warwick)

Advice and feedback hours online via MS Teams: Term 3: by appointment. Email to arrange an appointment.

No advice and feedback hours in reading weeks or university vacations. Email me at any time.

Nau mai heare mai - Welcome

I am a world leader in research on the political economy of money and finance, focused mainly on American institutions and rules. See my Google Scholar profile of citationsLink opens in a new window. I am interested in the commanding heights of global finance: the processes, institutions, and elites that control international money and finance. Adam Tooze has called this the 'North Atlantic financial system,' based on the 'axis between Wall Street and the City of London.' Much of my work has been concerned with the major bond rating agencies, Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch, founding the social science literature on these organizations that rate $70 trillion worth of debt securities with an article in the first issue of Review of International Political Economy, and the first research monograph on the agenciesLink opens in a new window, published by Cornell University Press, in the Cornell Studies in Political EconomyLink opens in a new window series in 2005. I appeared in what I believe is the best documentary film to focus on Moody's, S&P, and Fitch so far: The Power of the Rating AgenciesLink opens in a new window. Here is a talk I gave on my research at the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University.Link opens in a new window My second volume on the rating agencies, To the Brink of Destruction: America's Rating Agencies and Financial CrisisLink opens in a new window, published in 2021, focuses on their role in the global financial crisis and their perseverance in the aftermath. It is published in the Cornell Studies in MoneyLink opens in a new window series. I have written a blog entry that focuses on some of the issues raised by the book. Link opens in a new window I have also published, in addition to several edited volumes, The Problem with Banks, co-authored with Lena Rethel, (Bloomsbury Academic, 2012) and Global Governance (Polity 2012). One of the things I am most proud of is helping Robert W. Cox publish his collected works, Approaches to World OrderLink opens in a new window, in 1996.

What I do

Inspired by classical political economy, I think politically about what are mistakenly assumed to be purely economic or technical matters. See the interview with me in Theory Talks.Link opens in a new window I investigate the things, people, history, and institutions that comprise what we call capitalism. I postulate the existence of mechanisms that must exist for the phenomena I am interested in to assume the forms they do. The phenomena may be structural (say, the growth of capital markets) or collective (witch hunts; bank runs; financial panics). I call my way of thinking a social foundations approach to the politics of global finance. Here is a statement by me from a book that includes an analysis of my approachLink opens in a new window. My findings support the view that politics - broadly conceived - infuses the institutions and processes normally thought to comprise 'the economy.'

Recently, I have become interested in fraud and corruption in business and other organizations. In the past, I saw this as marginal, deviant behavior, and therefore not interesting. Since then, I have come to see fraud and corruption as endemic, and now I think of these things as constitutive of modern capitalism.

Influences on me

Scholars (and related professionals) who have influenced me include, Peter J. Katzenstein, Roger Haydon, Raymond (Bud) Duvall, Benjamin J. Cohen, Jeffry Frieden, James W. Lamare, R.P.G. 'Rob' Steven (1944-2001), Cary J. Nederman, James N. Rosenau (1924-2011), Eric Helleiner, Stephen R. Gill, Susan Strange (1923-1998) and Robert W. Cox (1926-2018). On Robert W. Cox, see this memorial panelLink opens in a new window recorded at the 2019 International Studies Association meeting in Toronto.

At Warwick, my approach to scholarship and what we do in universities has been influenced by senior colleagues who were in the department when I came to England in 1995, especially Jim Bulpitt (1937-1999), Zig Layton-Henry (1942-2020), Roger Duclaud-Williams (1943-2012), Susan Strange (1923-1998), Peter Burnell, Shirin Rai, Andrew Reeve and - most importantly - Peter Burnham. Through watching them work, I have become an advocate of the English approach to understanding politics, combining political philosophy, history, and the close study of institutions.

My government service

Before my Ph.D I worked as an official in the New Zealand Treasury on annual public expenditure of US$600 million, and the privatization of a New Zealand Government agency. I wrote Treasury reports on policy proposals to Cabinet from spending departments, drafted correspondence for the Prime Minister David Lange, the Minister of Finance Roger Douglas (and David Caygill after Douglas was sacked by Lange in December 1988) and for the Minister of State-Owned Enterprises, Richard Prebble (and others, including Deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, after Prebble was sacked), prepared the Parliamentary Estimates of public expenditure for two 'Votes', managed a small privatization process, liaised with the Minister of Finance's office and attended Cabinet committees with my boss and other officials. This service was an intense experience because the Treasury was and remains at the centre of policy-making (there, and everywhere else).

The Ph.D supervision I offer

I am interested in supervising excellent Ph.D candidates. Please email me to discuss your ideas.

Timothy Sinclair 



"With this book, Timothy J. Sinclair has established definitively that his work on an essential piece of the regulatory architecture of finance—credit rating agencies—is the best that any discipline has to offer."
Rawi Abdelal, Harvard Business School, author of Capital Rules