- Comparative Political Economy of British and European capitalisms, the UK & French Growth Models, the Productivity Puzzle, and Brexit (Max Planck Institute, 2022)
Paper, co-authored with Sean McDanielLink opens in a new window, presented at Max Planck Institute seminar, Cologne, January 2022.
This paper interrogates Varieties of Capitalism and Growth model perspectives to attain a more nuanced understanding of European capitalisms. Using case studies of Britain and France, it shows how European (dis)integration shapes and constrains national capitalisms. Attuning to the substantial variegation and hybridisation of contemporary capitalist transformations is vital for understanding the differential impact of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and Brexit. A holistic approach is also necessary for unpacking the drivers of Britain’s productivity puzzle.
- OBR, and the Politics of UK Growth Forecasting: GFC and Brexit Impacts Compared (PAIS, 2019)
Presentation at the Politics and International Studies (PAIS) department's annual research conference, University of Warwick, July 2019.
This paper sheds light on an under-appreciated but important relationship between gauging growth and the scope for economic policy options. It specifies how economic concepts used to frame and pilot economic policy, even when advanced by Technocratic economic governance organisations like the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), are political constructions, always founded upon contestable normative assumptions. This paper compares OBR growth Forecasting practices in relation to Brexit with its assessment of the global financial crisis (GFC) and its impact on the UK’s economic trajectory. It finds that there is no agreed, uncontested approach to projecting growth (or gauging the Output gap) – the OBR presents itself as a purely technocratic body channelling economic expertise to project the UK’s growth trajectory. Yet the decision to impose a certain methodology as the legitimate one is highly political. Ironically, just as interpreting future growth and output gaps became much harder to gauge, they have taken centre stage in managing the public finances through Cyclically adjusted fiscal rules. Though Fiscal rules seek to enhance credibility, their anchors are non-observable cyclically adjusted assessments that entail contested methods, changeable understandings. Authoritative technocratic bodies like the OBR therefore highlight sizeable margins of error and measurement problems in their forecasting work.
- OBR, UK Growth Forecasting & the Politics of Economic Ideas Surrounding Brexit’s Impact on the UK Economy (ISA, 2019)
Presentation at the International Studies Association (ISA) Conference, Toronto, March 2019. Part of the panel: ‘Understanding the Politics of Economic Ideas within the Theory and Practice of Economic Governance’.
Economic concepts used to frame and pilot economic policy, even when advanced by Technocratic economic governance organisations like the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), are political constructions, always founded upon contestable normative assumptions. This paper explores the relationship between OBR growth Forecasting practices and the conduct of UK economic policy in relation to Brexit, and before that the global financial crisis (GFC). Growth forecasts crucially mediate the politics of Austerity through their implications for the tax take, and in the assumptions they make about the effects that government policy (and shocks like the GFC or Brexit) have on actual and potential growth. The paper engages in an analysis of connections between forecasting potential and actual UK growth and economic policy conduct and credibility to reveal the new politics of growth, and UK economic policy post-Brexit. This research draws back the veil on how growth assessments are arrived at as a means to explore the political economy of Brexit and its implications for the British model of capitalism. As this paper reveals, these highly significant economic forecasts, with crucial policy implications, are based on contested methods and disputed assumptions. It delineates how UK Government policy options are opened up or closed off by particular renderings of Britain’s growth trajectory and their assumptive foundations.
Paper, co-authored with Ben RosamondLink opens in a new window, presented in November 2021 at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) workshop on the politics of economic knowledge and the political economy of British capitalism.
This paper analyses the discursive politics of Brexit as a means to explore the changing role of economic expertise and rising anti-intellectualism in the political and public debate. It identifies a broader pathology within the politics of economic management in contemporary democratic societies – a tension between Technocratic economic governance compulsions and legitimacy pressures faced by economic policy-makers. This paper argues that the appeal to technocratic reason and sites of expert authority work under conditions of Depoliticisation. When the issue at hand is subject to political contestation, then expert claims struggle for traction. An appeal to mainstream economic expertise is conventionally a source of legitimacy and justification for policy proposals. Yet this appeal and instinct to operate within technocratic parameters can serve to exacerbate the legitimacy problems facing economic policy conduct. The specific focus is on the changing role of economic expertise in the political and public debate over Brexit. The animating research question asks ‘how was economic knowledge mobilised within the Brexit debate’.
Paper, co-authored with Ben RosamondLink opens in a new window, presented to the Council of European Studies Virtual Conference, June 2021. Part of the panel: 'The politics of economic expertise in times of European crisis'.
This paper analyses the UK Brexit debate and discourse as a means to explore the changing role of economic expertise and rising anti-intellectualism in the political and public debate. It identifies a broader pathology within the politics of economic management in contemporary democratic societies – a tension between Technocratic economic governance compulsions and legitimacy pressures faced by economic policy-makers. An appeal to mainstream economic expertise is conventionally a source of legitimacy and justification for policy proposals. Yet this appeal and instinct to operate within technocratic parameters serves only to exacerbate its legitimacy problems in a populist era of ‘we have had enough of experts’ which disingenuously pits ‘the people’ against ‘elites’. This paper argues that the appeal to technocratic reason and sites of expert authority works under conditions of Depoliticisation. When the issue at hand is subject to political contestation, then expert claims struggle for traction. In part, this is because the technocratic voice is no longer privileged and partly because the grammar of expertise is ill-suited to the vernacular that is typical of politicised contexts.
- The Politics of Economic Expertise and Technocratic Economic Governance amidst Capitalist Instability and Pervasive Uncertainty
Ben Clifts Presentation at the MaxPo Closing conference, Sciences Po, Paris October 2023. explores tensions betweenthe OBR, and technocratic economic governance more broadly, and the short-lived and ill-fated Liz Truss admininstration in the UK.
It sets out links between the disruptive extreme free market fundamentalist think tanks TPA , IEA, Adam Smith Institution - all based at 55 Tufton St – and the Truss Kwarteng inner circle. It highlights tension between organisations such as the OBR – which embody ‘technocratic economic governance – and the more ‘populist’ style of politics that has been prominent in the UK in recent years, which rejects such expertise as the product of an establishment elite. Ecpnomic policy was decreaisngly rooted in evidence and fact. Financial markets sought reassurance in September / October 2022 about the UK’s fiscal sustainability and economic policy stance from independent overseers such as the OBR. The absence of that reassurance – profound questions about UK fiscal sustainability - significant adverse movements in government borrowing costs since the mini-budget. Questions were posed increasingly starkly, in declining the input of independent technocratic oversight for the OBR, the Truss government struggled to find an alternative means to assuage financial markets.
- Unobtrusive Politics of Technocratic Economic Governance: OBR Forecasting & the Politics of Economic Method (PAIS, 2021)
Paper presented at the Politics and International Studies (PAIS) department's annual research conference, July 2021.
This paper places analysis of Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) Economic Forecasting in the context of evolving UK Fiscal rules, and fiscal rectitude. Analysing the practical enactment of rules-based fiscal policy, we find it is saturated with multiple forms of politics, including when overseen by independent bodies. The scale of discretion and judgement inherent in the operation of fiscal rules is under-appreciated. Economic methods often get neglected as the technical realm within which economic ideas, once established, are implemented. In fact, discussions of economic methods and economic modelling assumptions constitute sites where different views on the principles of Political Economy are in play. The OBR sees itself as a Technocratic economic governance institution, yet its operational work entails contrasting normatively informed accounts of the economy and policy. Another element of the multi-faceted politics of analysing macroeconomic policy rules and their operation unearths numerous dimensions of the politics of technocratic fiscal policy-making. Placing fiscal policy-making at one remove from democratic politics engenders new and distinctive forms of contested politics, a politics of elite statecraft and expert technocracy, at the heart of technocratic economic governance.
- Wicked Politics and Trashy Economics: Brexit Scandals and Exclusionary Economic Expertise
Paper, co-authored with Francesca Melhuish and Ben RosamondLink opens in a new window,presented at the Politics and International Studies (PAIS) department's annual research conference, June 2022.
Writing in 2018 at the height of the Brexit debate, Tim Congdon – member of pro-Brexit pressure group, Economists for Free Trade – argued that ‘Project Fear’ Remainers were leveraging support for Britain’s continued EU membership via a combination of “wicked politics and trashy economics”. For Congdon, this ‘establishment’ stitch-up was nothing short of a scandal. Yet the Brexit debate was replete with more fundamental, but overlooked, forms of scandal surrounding the deployment of economic expertise. By studying the political economic discourses of the Brexit referendum and its aftermath, this paper sheds new light on the scandalous nature of all forms of economic expertise – including those used on both sides of the Brexit debate – and on the gendered, raced and exclusionary nature of default understandings of ‘the economy’.