When Things Don’t Fall Apart: Global Financial Governance and Developmental Finance in an Age of Productive Incoherence (The MIT Press, 2017).
Open Access edition of the book available at:

Cover of book-When Things Fall Apart

Book Awards

2019 European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy Joan Robinson Prize

2019 International Studies Association International Political Economy Best Book Award

2019 European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy Joan Robinson Prize

2018 British International Studies Association International Political Economy Book Prize Winner


“This clear and passionate argument that ‘productive incoherence’ is transforming the global financial system challenges believers in all kinds of ‘isms’—and provides a source of optimism in otherwise dark times.”
Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Executive Secretary, International Development Economics Associates

“How do you know a change when you see it? We like to see big bangs that lead to big changes. But life moves in increments. Recognizing this, Ilene Grabel has produced a lens for us that sees incoherence and discontinuity, not as noise, but assignal. And as evidence that when agents make changes to their institutional context locally, they effect changes that matter globally. Grabel shows us why institutional and ideational incoherence is the raw material of change.”
Mark Blyth, Eastman Professor of Political Economy, The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University

“This book, by a leading critical thinker on the global financial system, analyzes with outstanding creativity the evolution of the system since the East Asian crisis. It shows in a very innovative way how it has become a more complex and fragmented system, but one that has enhanced the voice and policy space of emerging and developing countries. It is a must read for those who work on international finance.”
José Antonio Ocampo, Codirector of Banco de la República de Colombia; Professor, Columbia University; former United Nations Under-Secretary-General; former Finance Minister of Colombia

“Albert Hirschman’s pathbreaking insights into the processes of socio-economic change have been forgotten as mainstream social scientists have become less apt to question the status quo and dismissive of the possibilities for social transformation. Ilene Grabel makes a powerful and fresh case for the ‘Hirschmanian mindset’ as an essential lens through which we can understand evolutions in global financial governance since the East Asian crisis of 1997 and especially following the global financial crisis.”
Ha-Joon Chang, University of Cambridge; author of 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism

Foreword by Professor Dani Rodrik

Dani Rodrik’s Foreword to the book begins as follows: “It happens only rarely and is all the more pleasurable because of it. You pick up a manuscript that fundamentally changes the way you look at certain things. This is one such book. Ilene Grabel has produced a daring and delightful reinterpretation of developments in global finance since the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998.
Rodrik, Dani. January 18, 2018. Has Global Finance Reformed Itself More Than It Appears? Retrieved from

Book Reviews

Reviewed by Radha Upadhyaya (2022) When Things Don’t Fall Apart, The Journal of Development Studies, 58:12, pp. 2624-25, DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2022.2065070.

“As we pass a decade since the global financial crisis that started in 2007, we experience diminishing returns from each new book about that crisis and about global financial stability in general. It is striking, then, that a cohort of four recent books can be considered among the best books on the subject since the crisis. What these books bring to the table is a truly global analysis of the world monetary and financial systems, the impacts of those systems on economic development, and a coherent set of reform policies that are largely absent from the literature to date.”
—Review in Development and Change by Kevin P. Gallagher, Professor of Global Development Policy and Director of the Global Development Policy Center, Boston University. “Reforming Global Economic Governance as if Development Mattered” (review essay), Development and Change, 2018, 49(6), pp. 1605-15 (DOI: 10.1111/dech.12460).

“Authored by a leading expert on international and development economics, the book is clearly indicative of a breakthrough in the interpretation of the crisis.”
Guillaume Vallet, Professor of Economics, Université Grenoble Alpes, France, Review of Keynesian Economics, 2019, 7(3), pp. 423-6. 

Review by Rick Rowden, Senior Economist at Global Financial Integrity. Development (2018). Volume 61, Issue 1–4pp 179–181.

Review by Adriana Mica, Assistant professor at Institute of Social Prevention and Resocialisation, University of Warsaw. European Societies (2019).

Reclaiming Development: An Alternative Economic Policy Manual (Zed Books, 2004)

Reclaiming Development: An Alternative Economic Policy Manual, London: Bloomsbury Publishing (US distributor: Palgrave Macmillan, NY), 2014 (2004). Co-authored with Ha-Joon Chang. Book has been co-published by Fernwood Publishing (Canada), Books for Change (India), World Book Publishing (Beirut), SIRD (Malaysia), Third World Network (Malaysia), David Philip (South Africa). First printing, 2004; second printing, March 2005. Translated into Turkish (Imge Publishing House), Korean (Bookei Publishing House), Spanish (CLACSO), Portuguese (SURURU), Tamil (New Horizon Media Ltd.), Malayalam (New Horizon Media Ltd.), and Bahasa/Indonesia. Reissued in 2014 with Foreword by Professor Robert Wade and new Preface. Left picture is the front cover of the original edition (2004) and the right is the front cover of the 2014 re-issue.

The 2014 re-issue version of the book was selected by London School of Economics students for their ‘book of the month’ club.