Money and calculator

Uncomfortable knowledge in central banking

Headshot of Jacqueline Best

Join us for an exciting talk with Jacqueline Best of the University of Ottawa as part of the 2023 Semester 2 seminar series. This seminar is co-sponsored by the International Political Economy Research Group at the University of Edinburgh.

Jacqueline will delve into the crucial role of Central Banks in shaping modern societies. Through a historical analysis, Jacqueline will explore the ways in which Central Banks wield their expertise and navigate uncertainty as they make key political decisions, such as setting interest rates and implementing monetary policies.

Here is a brief summary of this upcoming seminar


Uncomfortable knowledge in central banking



How do central bankers cope with the uncomfortable fact that there are significant limits to their expertise without losing authority? Drawing on Steve Rayner’s concept of ‘uncomfortable knowledge,’ in this talk I undertake a historical examination of the early years of Paul Volcker’s role at the head of the Federal Reserve, and then trace the ways in which the uncomfortable fact of ignorance has been dealt with in the years since then: from the reflexive and experimental approach of the 1980s, through the dismissal and displacement of the Great Moderation, to the exceptionalism and new experimentalism of the post-2008 era. In each of these eras, I argue that central banks face a visibility dilemma: their expertise must be visible enough to demonstrate their mastery but not so conspicuous that the often ad-hoc and uncertain nature of their craft generates political push-back about their role and authority.



Jacqueline Best is Professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. Her research is at the intersection of international relations, political economy and social theory. Inspired by the long slow recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis and, more recently, the surprising renewal of inflation, her current research seeks to find some answers for our current political dilemmas by looking back to an earlier crisis: the “war on inflation” in the 1970s and early 1980s, which was in many ways the crucible in which our present political economic order was forged. Professor Best has been awarded important research prizes, including most recently a Hallsworth fellowship, the Leverhulme Trust’s international visiting professorship and the Faculty of Social Science’s Research Excellence Award. She has been a visiting professor at University College, Oxford University, the University of Queensland and the University of Sheffield. She has also been co-editor of the Review of International Political Economy journal and the Routledge RIPE Book Series. Her most recent book is Governing Failure: Provisional Expertise and the Transformation of Global Development Finance published with Cambridge University Press.

See you there!



This event will take place in person at the University of Edinburgh, in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre (Old Medical School) at 4 pm.

Cover photos credit: Headshot photo provided by Jacqueline


Mar 28 2023


4:00 pm - 5:30 pm


Anatomy Lecture Theatre
Old Medical School

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