Chapter 3: SWFs in five continents and three narratives: Similarities and differences
Organized and targeted state interventions in private markets, especially with respect to investments beyond their own territories, have raised complex issues. Particularly when undertaken in the form of Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs,) these public activities in private markets raised issues with respect to the viability of the private market-based foundations of globalization. How one understands the nature, and character, and therefore the boundaries of legitimate organization and operation of SWFs remains an under-theorized though highly politicized endeavor. More important, perhaps, was the political objective in what might have appeared to be a more anarchic and polycentric global ordering – the development and control of a master narrative, of a transcendent and universal truth, of SWFs. This chapter examines SWF characteristics in different areas and regions. The chapter postulates regionalization grounded in three distinct narrative foundations for SWF regionalism – an economic purpose narrative, a legalist narrative, and a corporatist narrative. The first currently serves as the ‘master narrative’ of SWFs, the lens through which SWFs are understood and around which analysis (especially social science and political analysis) and theory tend to be structured. The other two are alternative narratives that sometimes layer and sometimes seek to displace the master economics narrative. Each produces its own approach to SWF regionalism. The author’s thesis is that the distinctive narratives within which SWFs are conceptualized produce forms of regionalization that provide a powerful tool for structuring analysis of differences among national SWF models. In particular, the ‘regional’ categories discernible through the distinctive lenses of the narratives produce clearly distinctive ‘regions’ of SWFs, grounded on the logic of the narrative rather than on the geographic home of the SWF. Section 2 considers the logic of each of the narratives. Section 3 then considers regionalization under each of these narratives, with a focus on the connection between geographic and narrative regionalism.
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