Susan Strange
Portrait of Susan Strange in 1980
Born(1923-06-09)9 June 1923
Died25 October 1998(1998-10-25) (aged 75)
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Alma materLondon School of Economics
FamilyLouis Strange (father)
SchoolInternational political economy
InstitutionsUniversity of Warwick
European University Institute
London School of Economics
Chatham House
Main interests
International studies, finance, Economic history, Power (social and political), Macroeconomics
Notable ideas
International political economy, structural power, Westfailure, Casino Capitalism

Susan Strange (9 June 1923 – 25 October 1998)[1] was a British political economist, author, and journalist who was "almost single-handedly responsible for creating international political economy."[2] Notable publications include Sterling and British Policy (1971), Casino Capitalism (1986), States and Markets (1988), The Retreat of the State (1996), and Mad Money (1998).[3]

She helped create the British International Studies Association. She was the first woman to hold the Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and was the first female academic to have a professorship named after her at the LSE.[4]

Early life

Susan Strange was born on 9 June 1923 in Langton Matravers (County Dorset). She was the daughter of English aviator Louis Strange. She went to the Royal High School, Bath, and to the University of Caen in France,[5] and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from the London School of Economics (LSE) during the Second World War.[6] Like Robert W. Cox, the other founder of British International Political Economy, she never obtained a PhD.[7]


Susan Strange earned a first in economics at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1943.[3] She raised six children and worked as a financial journalist for The Economist, then The Observer until 1957. At The Observer, she became the youngest White House correspondent of her time.[3] She began lecturing on International Politics at the University College London in 1949.[3]

In 1964, she became a full-time researcher at Chatham House (formally The Royal Institute of International Affairs).[3][2][8] At the Chatham House, she authored Sterling and British Policy (1971).[3] She set up an influential research group on IPE at the Chatham House in 1971.[3] She played a role in the establishing of the journal Review of International Political Economy, which is the leading journal dedicated to IPE.[3]

From 1978 to 1988, she served as the Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at LSE, and was the first woman at LSE to hold this chair and professorship. At the LSE, she built Britain's first graduate program in IPE.[3] While at LSE she held Visiting Professorships at the Brookings Institution, University of Minnesota, University of California, Columbia University, and the Bologna Center of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.[9]

She served as professor of international political economy at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, from 1989 to 1993. Strange's final academic post, which she held from 1993 until her death in 1998, was as chair of international relations and professor of international political economy at the University of Warwick, where she built up the graduate programme in International Political Economy.[10] She also taught in Japan, where between 1993 and 1996 she was several times guest lecturer at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

She was a major figure in the professional associations in both Britain and the United States. She was an instrumental founding member and the first treasurer of the British International Studies Association,[3] and served as the third female president of the International Studies Association in 1995.[11]

Her only autobiographical essay 'I Never Meant to Be an Academic', was republished online in 2020, and includes stories from her early life to the 1970s.[12]

Scholarship on global politics and economics

Strange was an influential thinker on global affairs.[13] She played a central role in developing international political economy (IPE) as a field of study,[2][14] and is a key figure in political economy approaches to security studies.[15] Her 1970 article, "International Economics and International Relations: A Case of Mutual Neglect", laid out her arguments for the need of a discipline of IPE.[3]

She argued that power was central to international political economy.[16] She claimed that in general, "economists simply do not understand how the global economy works" due to a poor understanding of power and an over-reliance on abstract economic models. However, she noted that political scientists also have a woeful understanding of international economics due to their emphasis on institutions and power. Thus she became one of the earliest campaigners advocating the necessity of studying both politics and economics for international relations scholars.[2] She influenced scholars such as Robert Gilpin.[17] She was a critic of regime theory, arguing that the scholarship on regimes was too state-centric and carried a hidden bias in favor of maintaining U.S. hegemony.[18]

In the 1980s, she disagreed with claims by other International Studies scholars that U.S. hegemony was on the decline.[19] Strange was skeptical of static indicators of power, arguing that it was structural power that mattered.[20][21] In particular, interactions between states and markets mattered.[22] She pointed to the superiority of the American technology sector, dominance in services, and the position of the U.S. dollar as the top international currency as real indicators of lasting power.[19]

Power and international financial markets

Strange's key contribution to IPE was on the issue of power, which she considered essential to the character and dynamics of the global economy.[3] She distinguished between relational power (the power to compel A to get B to do something B does not want to do) and structural power (the power to shape and determine the structure of the global political economy).[3][21]

States and Markets (1988) delineates four key forms of power—security, production, finance, and knowledge; power is the ability to "provide protection, make things, obtain access to credit, and develop and control authoritative modes of interpreting the world". Strange posits that the most overlooked channel of power is financial access, which consequently becomes the most important one to comprehend; in other words, she argues that one cannot comprehend how the world works without a thorough understanding of international financial markets. To illustrate, Casino Capitalism, published in 1986, discusses the dangers of the international financial system, which she considered confirmed by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. There is a financial "contagion" creating a huge instability in the international financial markets.[23]

Her analysis in States and Markets (1988) focused on what she called the "market-authority nexus", the see-saw of power between the market and political authority. She maintained that the global market, relative to the nation state, had gained significant power since the 1970s and that a "dangerous gap" was emerging between the two. She considered nation states inflexible, limited by territorial boundaries in a world of fragile intergovernmental co-operation; "Westfailure" is what she called Westphalia. Markets would be able to flout regulations and reign free, creating more uncertainty and risk in an already chaotic environment.

Casino Capitalism

In Casino Capitalism (Blackwells, 1986), Susan Strange problemizes the nonsystem that the international monetary system has become. She compares it with a casino whereon the foreign exchange plays as snakes and ladders. She sets the stakes that international finance has become stronger than states and has been deregularized. The Smithsonian Agreement has been weak leading further to benign neglect from the US, the Eurodollar market and OPEC has been strong undermining the Bretton Woods system. There is no state or actor governing the international monetary system and the international financial markets. American banks are made free to pursue their interests since the 1980s strengthened by the possibility to finance American bonds in the world, making a carousel of bond trading with the OPEC and the Eurodollar market. The forces of market integration set by the Bretton Woods system was going through.[24]

Mad Money (University of Manchester Press, 1998) updated the analysis of Casino Capitalism to the late 1990s. At the time of her death, she was working on an exposition of her theory of the international money system.[25] Strange argued in Mad Money that complex derivatives, such as credit default swaps, had increased systemic risk in the global financial system. She has been described as a prescient thinker who "foresaw multiple aspects of the global financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath".[1]

In 2024, the British International Studies Association organised an event on Strange's work which "has enjoyed a renaissance recently".[2]

Honours and awards

Susan Strange is remembered through the following annual awards:

Personal life

In 1942, she married Denis Merritt (died 1993); they had one son and one daughter, and the marriage was dissolved in 1955. In 1955 she married Clifford Selly, with whom she had three sons, and one daughter.[6]



  1. ^ Gautam Sen (9 December 1998). "Obituary: Professor Susan Strange". The Independent. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Brown, Chris (1999). "Susan Strange: A Critical Appreciation". Review of International Studies. 25 (3): 531–535. doi:10.1017/s0260210599005318. JSTOR 20097617.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Cohen, Benjamin J. (2008). International Political Economy: An Intellectual History. Princeton University Press. pp. 45–51. ISBN 978-0-691-13569-4.
  4. ^ "Susan Strange: a great thinker or a 'journalist'?". SPERI. 27 February 2019. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  5. ^ Baker 2004.
  6. ^ a b Sen, Gautam. "Obituary: Professor Susan Strange | Culture". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  7. ^ Cohen, Benjamin J (2007). "The transatlantic divide: Why are American and British IPE so different?". Review of International Political Economy. 14 (2): 208. doi:10.1080/09692290701288277. S2CID 16476865.
  8. ^ Halliday, Fred (24 September 2008). "The revenge of ideas: Karl Polanyi and Susan Strange". openDemocracy. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  9. ^ Higgott, Richard; Tooze, Roger (4 August 2023). "Newsletter Issue 2" (PDF). University of Warwick Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation.
  10. ^ Coleman, William; Sajed, Alina (26 June 2013). Fifty Key Thinkers on Globalization. Routledge. p. 232. ISBN 9781136163944. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Presidents of ISA". Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  12. ^ "I Never Meant to Be an Academic by Susan Strange". Retrieved 24 May 2024.
  13. ^ "Susan Strange 1923-1998: a great international relations theorist". Review of International Political Economy. 6 (2): 121–132. 1 January 1999. doi:10.1080/096922999347254. ISSN 0969-2290.
  14. ^ Cohen, Benjamin J. (2008). International Political Economy: An Intellectual History. Princeton University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-691-13569-4.
  15. ^ Cappella Zielinski, Rosella; Schilde, Kaija; Ripsman, Norrin (2020). "A Political Economy of Global Security Approach". Journal of Global Security Studies. 6 (1). doi:10.1093/jogss/ogaa005. ISSN 2057-3170.
  16. ^ Poast, Paul (2019). "Beyond the "Sinew of War": The Political Economy of Security as a Subfield". Annual Review of Political Science. 22 (1): 223–239. doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-050317-070912. ISSN 1094-2939.
  17. ^ Cohen, Benjamin J. (2008). International Political Economy: An Intellectual History. Princeton University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-691-13569-4.
  18. ^ Cohen, Benjamin J. (2008). International Political Economy: An Intellectual History. Princeton University Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-691-13569-4.
  19. ^ a b Cohen, Benjamin J. (2008). International Political Economy: An Intellectual History. Princeton University Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-691-13569-4.
  20. ^ Norrlof, Carla (2010). America's Global Advantage: US Hegemony and International Cooperation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 18. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511676406. ISBN 978-0-521-76543-5.
  21. ^ a b Winecoff, William Kindred (2020). ""The persistent myth of lost hegemony," revisited: structural power as a complex network phenomenon". European Journal of International Relations. 26: 209–252. doi:10.1177/1354066120952876. ISSN 1354-0661. S2CID 222003135.
  22. ^ Katzenstein, Peter J.; Keohane, Robert O.; Krasner, Stephen D. (1998). "International Organization and the Study of World Politics". International Organization. 52 (4): 645–685. doi:10.1017/S002081830003558X. ISSN 0020-8183. S2CID 34947557.
  23. ^ Macmillan., Palgrave (2015). Global politics. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137349262. OCLC 979008143.
  24. ^ Strange, Susan, Casino Capitalism, Manchester University Press, 1986, pp. 1–48
  25. ^ Strange, Susan (December 1998). "CSGR Working Paper No. 18/98 "What Theory? The Theory in Mad Money"" (PDF). Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalization, University of Warwick.
  26. ^ "Susan Strange Award". Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  27. ^ "Susan Strange Best Book Prize | BISA". Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  28. ^ "EmPOWER! Politics, Policy, and Personality!". Universität Bonn – Center for Global Studies (CGS). Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  29. ^ Review of Strange 1971: Conan, A. (1971). "(review of) Sterling and British Policy by S. Strange". The Economic Journal. 81 (324): 998–1000. doi:10.2307/2230361. JSTOR 2230361.