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Bringing the supply side back in to Growth Models analysis: The UK model of capitalism and the productivity puzzle - British Journal of Politics and International Relations (2021)

(joint-authored with Sean McDanielLink opens in a new window), British Journal of Politics and International Relations, pp. 1-18. opens in a new window.

This article assesses the usefulness of the growth models perspective for understanding contemporary British capitalism in the context of its ongoing ‘productivity puzzle’ and stagnating economic growth. The analysis of British capitalism supports our argument that growth models perspective analyses currently have limited capacity to understand the developmental trajectory of growth models, the instabilities and dysfunctionalities of these models, and how growth comes to be distributed differently across models. Through analysis of capital investment patterns and labour market characteristics, it reveals the importance of the ‘politics of productivity’, embedded in state institutions, which shapes the nature and distribution of economic growth. The article outlines a new framework for growth models analysis that ‘brings the supply-side back in’ for a more holistic approach to the political economy of capitalist growth (and non-growth). It argues this is critical for understanding patterns of political economic development in the British model of capitalism and beyond.



Capitalist convergence? European (dis?)integration and the post-crash restructuring of French and European capitalisms - New Political Economy (2021)

(joint-authored with Sean McDanielLink opens in a new window) New Political Economy, Volume 26, No. 1, pp. 1-19. opens in a new window

This article critiques and builds upon first-wave (Höpner and Schäfer 2010. A new phase of European integration: organised capitalisms in post-Ricardian Europe. West European Politics, 33 (2), 344–368) and second-wave (Johnston and Regan 2018. Introduction: is the European Union capable of integrating diverse models of capitalism? New Political Economy, 23 (2), 145–159) European Integration and comparative capitalisms literatures which posit convergence towards a single model of capitalism or growth. It utilises the case study of France to explore the impact of European integration and disintegration on national models of capitalism in the post-crisis era. The article focuses on the impact of integrative and disintegrative dynamics on France’s ‘state-industry-finance nexus’, putting forward three core claims. First, French capitalism is not accurately captured by the above frameworks and remains better characterised by the concept of post-dirigisme. Indeed, comparative capitalisms debates must move beyond a simple bifurcation of capitalist types. Second, European integrative pressures must be viewed as fragmented, differentiating, mediated by domestic state actors and producing capitalist variegation and hybridisation. Countering functionalist tendencies within this literature, it shows how different conceptions of state-market relations crucially mediate the relationship between national capitalisms and European integration. Finally, in the context of Brexit, the dynamics of European disintegration – an issue not discussed so far in these debates – is contributing to a variegated and multi-directional process of capitalist restructuring in post-crisis France.

Contingent Keynesianism: the IMF’s model answer to the post-crash fiscal policy efficacy question in advanced economies - Review of International Political Economy (2019)

Review of International Political Economy, Vol. 26, No. 6, pp. 1211-1237. opens in a new window.

Belying the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) reputation as a bastion of neo-liberal policy orthodoxy, this article analyses important yet contingent transformations in IMF fiscal policy thinking which constituted a key intervention in international austerity debates. Applying only to advanced economies, and in the specific post-crash conditions, the Fund came to champion fiscal policy as a more potent and effective counter-cyclical tool. Analysis focuses on alterations to modeling assumptions and analytical techniques, beginning before the crash but accelerating after it, which intellectually bolstered this view. It finds the Fund’s rediscovery of some older (Keynesian) assumptions was both longer in germination and more enduring than some have recognized. It also charts the reconciliation of this contingent Keynesianism to ‘congenital’ IMF concerns for fiscal sustainability. It highlights the variety of economic insights, often with vastly differing policy implications, found within the Fund, and indeed within mainstream macroeconomics. It builds on work questioning the stability, consistency, and coherence of economic ideas suggested by the paradigm framework, and identifies limitations of a paradigm lens for understanding incremental IMF ideational change. It contributes to politics of economic ideas scholarship in highlighting the importance of economic method and modeling assumptions as sites of contestation within gradual but meaningful ideational change.



Economic Patriotism, the Transformation of Economic Governance in 21st Century Capitalism, and the Politics of Contemporary Economic Nationalism - The Handbook of Economic Nationalism (2022)

A chapter in The Handbook of Economic Nationalism, edited by Professor Andreas Pickel (London: Edward Elgar).

This chapter explores the concept of economic patriotism (EP), and demonstrates its worth as a complement to economic nationalist analyses. EP’s account of state/market relations, the transformation of economic governance in the 21st Century, and the politics of market-making is distinct from economic nationalism, neo-mercantilism, and Realist International Political Economy. EP reflects profound if not self-evident contradictions between international market integration and spatially limited political mandates, and highlights the limits of democratic control over market outcomes and the economy. EP offers a framework for understanding differentiated, multi-faceted and multi-level economic interventions in pursuit of the interests of territorial insiders. The discussion uses EP as a lens to make sense of rising anti-system politics and the populist backlash against globalism. The roots of this backlash are a profound disjuncture – that EP lays bare – between politicians’ promises about ‘control’ over the economy and the much more complex realities of 21st Century economic governance.



Office for Budget Responsibility and the Politics of Technocratic Economic Governance (Oxford University Press, 2023) Ben Clift

The Office for Budget Responsibility and the Politics of Technocratic Economic Governance is about the politics of economic ideas and technocratic economic governance. It is also a book about the changing political economy of British capitalism’s relationship to the European and wider global economies. It focuses on the creation in 2010 and subsequent operation of the independent body created to oversee fiscal rectitude in Britain, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). A focus on the intersection between expert economic opinion of the OBR as the UK’s fiscal watchdog, and the political economy of British capitalism’s evolution through and after Brexit, animates a framework for analysing the politics of technocratic economic governance.

The technocratic vision of independent fiscal councils fails to grasp a core political economy insight: that economic knowledge and narratives are political and social constructs. The book unpacks the competing constructions of economic reason that underpin models of British capitalism, and through that inform expert economic assessment of the UK economy. It also underlines how contestable political economic assumptions undergird visions of Britain’s international economic relations. These were all brought to the fore in economic policy debates about Britain’s place in the world, which in the 2010s centred on Brexit. This book analyses OBR forecasting and fiscal oversight in that broader political context, rather than as a narrowly technical pursuit.



Technocratic Economic Governance and the Politics of UK Fiscal Rules - British Politics (2022)

British Politics, open access.

This exploration of UK fiscal rules and the establishment of an independent UK fiscal watchdog focuses on the practical enactment of rules-based fiscal policy to analyse the politics of technocratic economic governance. Analysing UK macroeconomic policy rules and their operation unearths numerous dimensions of the politics of technocratic fiscal policy-making. Firstly, policy rules are marshalled for partisan purposes. Secondly, a politics of economic ideas surrounds the invention, revision and interpretation of fiscal rules. Thirdly, technocratic economic governance entails a ‘politics of method’, selecting methodological approaches necessarily built on particular political economic assumptions. Finally, a ‘politics of numbers’ sees politicians cooking the books to present their economic record favourably against fiscal yardsticks.  Successive governments have altered UK fiscal rules, informed by different political economic principles. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) see themselves as a technocratic and apolitical institution, yet their operational work entails contrasting accounts of the economy and policy. The scale of discretion and judgement inherent in operating fiscal rules is under-appreciated. Technocratic economic governance is a much more social and political process than many advocates of economic rules-based policy acknowledge. It engenders new forms of distinctive fiscal politics within elite statecraft and expert technocracy.

The Hollowing out of Monetarism: the Rise of Rules-Based Monetary Policy-making in the UK and US and Problems with the Paradigm Change Framework - Comparative European Politics (2020)

Comparative European Politics, Volume 18, No. 3, pp 281-308. opens in a new window

The demise of a post-war Keynesian policy paradigm of discretionary fiscal fine-tuning in pursuit of full employment is widely associated with the rise of a monetarist economic policy paradigm stressing fixed policy rules and money supply targets to secure price stability. Challenging these conventional wisdoms, and questioning the usefulness of the paradigm change framework, this article interrogates how far monetarism did replace Keynesian approaches to macroeconomic policy in the UK and USA after the 1970s. Crucial aspects of monetarism—notably the commitment to abandon stabilisation policy and shift to fixed policy rules—were overridden shortly after brief, abortive attempts to use monetarism as a governing doctrine. A paradigm lens overstates the clarity of monetarist ideas, failing to acknowledge how these were reconciled to (New) Keynesian ideas by the end of the 1980s within a pragmatic composite (the Taylor rule). The wider theoretical contribution of this article is to revisit understandings of paradigmatic change in political science and political economy. We argue that taking a paradigmatic view of economic ideas and their relationship policy orders can overstate change, overlook continuities, and overrate the efficiency of punctuated change. It also under-appreciates scope to combine ideas from different paradigmatic homes.

The IMF, tackling inequality, and post-neoliberal re-globalisation: The paradoxes of political legitimation within economistic parameters - Globalizations (2021)

(joint-authored with Te-Anne RoblesLink opens in a new window) Globalizations, Volume 18, No. 1, pp. 39-54. opens in a new window.

In a quest for political legitimacy and traction since the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has become much more engaged in tackling inequality through its surveillance and other operations. This article analyses the depth and strength of this egalitarian commitment to reorient Fund actions. Notwithstanding shifts in high-level IMF rhetoric, we find that rigidity in the IMF’s mind-set and priorities is a major roadblock to substantive transformation. In a fine-grained analysis of Fund surveillance we investigate the conceptualization and operationalization of inequality and social protection as ‘macro-critical’ issues (essential for growth and stability). We argue that the IMF’s political legitimation operates within restrictive economistic parameters that flow from its technocratic compulsions. This paradoxically exacerbates the Fund’s legitimacy problems. We explore the Fund’s efforts to address the rhetoric-practice gap, but find that the kinds of economists they hire, and the mind-set their models reflect, limit its capacity for tackling inequality.

The IMF, the Eurozone and Global Financial Crises, and the Politics of Economic Ideas - Comparative European Politics (2018)

Comparative European Politics, Volume 8. pp. 99-108. opens in a new window.

The core European economic policy debate of the last decade, and probably the next, surrounds the wisdom or otherwise of fiscal consolidation and other austerity policies, pursued in response to higher public debt and credibility concerns sparked by the Global Financial and Eurozone crises. The IMF and the Politics of Austerity charts how the IMF fed into those debates, promoting one prominent set of diagnostic economic ideas about the crisis, and appropriate responses. In the process, the IMF re-evaluated its understanding of financial markets and their relationship to economic stability, and also re-assessed its understandings of fiscal policy efficacy for advanced economies it deemed to have ‘fiscal space’. In this contribution I address a range of issues raised in this symposium about austerity, the IMF, and the politics of economic ideas. For European politics scholars, the IMF warrants closer inspection than it often receives. This, as Lagarde put it, is ‘not your grandmother’s IMF'.

The Politics of the IMF’s Evolving Fiscal Policy Doctrine: Responding to the Challenge of Secular Stagnation - The Oxford Handbook of the International Monetary Fund (forthcoming, 2023)

A chapter in The Oxford Handbook of the International Monetary Fund, edited by Bessma Momani and Mark Hibben (Oxford: Oxford University Press).