SOCIOL 4EE3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: George Soros, International Monetary Fund, Ures

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13 Oct 2015
Somya Paliwal
Week 12 Summary
McLaughlin and Trilupaityte- George Soros
This article uses philanthropist and currency speculator George Soros as a case study for
examining the ways in which ideas and reputations travel. The authors study Soros’ reputation in
the United States, Lithuania and Russia to analyze how his reputation was constructed in both the
global and local contexts. By looking at the ways in which Soros was viewed differently across
several regions, the authors argue that both international and local influences are relevant in the
spread of ideas and reputation. The new age of increasing technologies and media are also
central to the mobilization of Soros’ ideas and had a profound impact on his reputation across
The authors provide a brief background into Soros’ career and describe the impact his
lack of ties to academic institutions had on his reputation. They argued that he did not have the
same resources or connections as other intellectuals had because he was not tied to a university,
but his money and philanthropy gave him a means to establish himself and act as a political
actor. The books he published and the biographies made about him also had an effect on his fame
and reputational growth.
Soros was an open critic of America’s war on drugs and war on terror, was a supporter of
Obama, and spent a lot of money on US domestic issues. The authors explain that one way to
look at Soros’ reputation in the US is as a “renegade Democrat”, someone who was independent
in his involvement in political affairs and had a significant amount of fame. He had vast
resources and used them to establish himself as a notorious supporter for certain causes.
Democrats are not fond of being connected to or associated with him despite his financial
strength because many socialist or left-wing individuals attack him on the way he makes money.
In both the Soviet era and post-communist Russia, Soros was used by several
“reputational entrepreneurs” and “partisan warriors” to further their own interests. Thus Soros’
reputation in this region was immensely torn and varied as his reputation simply depended on
whether his ideas could be used for different causes. This political motivation behind either
supporting or attacking Soros sheds light on the importance of local contexts for studying
reputations and the dynamics behind ideas. He was attacked on the basis of anti-Semitism, and
was supported for his views on shock therapy and privatization to revive Russia.
Soros was known in Lithuania after the Open Society Fund Lithuania (OSFL) was
established, and helped his reputation initially because of his philanthropic involvement in this
organization. However when it shut down, Soros reduced his financial support and later a
Lithuanian publication Respublika attacked him and laid the groundwork for conspiracy theories
about his foundations. What is important about Soros’ reputation in Lithuania is that his actions
did not necessarily dictate his reputation, rather those who spoke about him were politically
motivated. Political figures could either be attacked or promoted by being tied to Soros, and this
was what dictated which way his reputation went.
Soros’ case study is important in the analysis of reputations and ideas because it
highlights the influence of both international and local contexts. Reputation can be formed on
both a national and global scale and several groups borrowed images of Soros in other countries
to further their own local causes, illuminating the ways in which reputations and ideas can move
across borders.
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