Conference Agenda

RN06_04: Comparing Capitalisms: Industrial Policy, Progressive Protectionism, Fiscal Stability to Overcome Asymmetries?
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: David J. Bailey, University of Birmingham
Session Chair: Yuliya Yurchenko, University of Greenwich
Location: GM.332
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road


Helping To Generate Optimisms Of The Will In Dystopian Times? Reflections On A Decade Of Comparing Capitalisms Teaching

Ian Bruff

University of Manchester, United Kingdom

This presentation reflects on a decade of teaching on the subject area of comparing capitalisms in the global political economy, mostly as a taught postgraduate module. The module has evolved significantly during the past decade, through four distinct periods: (1) Choose your capitalist model?; (2) The emergence of a hybrid approach; (3) New directions in comparing capitalisms; (4) The politics of comparing capitalisms. The module has become increasingly critical and global in nature, which in turn has produced an approach to teaching that is explicitly cross-disciplinary and which foregrounds the political nature of researchers (i.e. students and academics), when making choices about what to study and how to study it.

While this process has largely been beneficial and has led to a more satisfying teaching experience, it raises a number of questions. For example, the module is subject to regulations on credits, programme structures, and module length and duration, which are significant constraints; what has been the impact here? Moreover, by moving some distance away from the aims and scope of the 2009 version of the module, and thus away from many classical literatures and debates on comparing capitalisms, what happens to those students who genuinely wish to see a better world but understand this in line with the soft social democratic outlook embodied in the classical publications? On the other hand, how are different critical approaches brought into dialogue with each other, and with the module’s aims and scope, when many downplay the notion of capitalist diversity as interesting in itself? And finally, can critical political economists help generate optimisms of the will among students, given the dystopian aura enveloping contemporary capitalism?

EU Industrial Policy in Dystopian Times: Why and how Smart Specialisation and Digitization European Industry exacerbate economic structural asymmetries within and beyond the EU

Luuk Schmitz, Angela Wigger

Departement of Political Sciences, Radboud University, The Netherlands

Asymmetries in inter- and intra-EU economic development have sharply increased in the wake of the 2007/8 economic crisis. Various EU institutions seem to realise that increasing North-South and East-West divides are posing major challenges not only to economic, social and territorial cohesion, but also the political project of EU integration. Therefore, a new common industrial policy has been adopted, heralding a ‘European Industrial Renaissance’. Facilitating the transition of EU manufacturing to innovative Industry 4.0 technologies, mostly through leveraging private investments, takes centre stage. However, contrary to the proclaimed and much needed economic convergence, the EU Smart Specialisation programme, one of the Industry 4.0 pillars, builds on a one size-fits all approach, which exacerbates the unequal core-periphery value-chain dynamics, rendering an upgrading into higher value-added and innovation intensive activities a pipedream for rapidly de-industrialising EU regions. Although industrial upscaling receives more consideration in the Digitizing European Industry initiative, also here, the reliance of private investments entails a structural bias towards technologically advanced high-value added industrial production.

Adopting a historical materialist perspective, the paper explains the (variance) of the content, form and scope of the Smart Specialisation and Digitization European Industry initiatives by revealing the political interplay of driving and contesting agents and the pivotal role played by the EU institutions. Locating the findings against the backdrop of a world-wide comeback of industrial policies, the paper critically discusses why and how the uneven and combined capitalist development recalibrates untenable debt-led accumulation structures and inequalities within and beyond Europe. Contributing to an emancipatory politics, the paper outlines the contours of an alternative industrial policy and what it would take for it to emerge.

Progressive Protectionism – An Oxymoron Or A Viable Strategy To Reduce Uneven Development In Europe?

Julia Eder

Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria

Since the beginnings of the first industrial revolution, advocates of free trade and protectionism have been in a constant struggle. However, the dominant viewpoint as well as the political orientation backing it have changed over time. In the wake of the global financial and economic crisis of 2008, the neoliberal ideology with its rhetoric insistence on free trade was increasingly challenged by calls for protectionism from the far Right. Confronted with these nationalist tendencies in the European Union and the USA, the majority of the European Left has been struggling to find a coherent position that defies free trade and its social consequences through dirigist measures, but does not fall into the ‘nationalist trap’ of defending ‘national economic interests’ against external actors. However, is trade protectionism necessarily a right-wing approach? Could we imagine a progressive protectionism for Europe under the current circumstances of transnational globalization or could the latter be partially reversed to establish a more solidary mode of living? Building on Hines’ (2017) proposal regarding progressive protectionism, this paper reflects which shape this could take in today’s Europe. Deviating from established positions, we will not argue that protectionism is progressive when it supports catch-up development, while it is reactionary when it seeks to prevent a nation’s decline in the global division of labour. Rather, we argue – drawing on arguments of the debate on self-reliant development led in the Global South in the 1960s and 1970s – that protectionist policies are progressive when they aim for the re-regionalisation of economic cycles, particularly those related to basic needs. As a case study, we discuss the experience of the city of Preston in the British Midlands.

A Cultural Political Economy Of Fiscal Stability and Growth: The Role Of The State And The Transformation Of The Economic Sphere In Spain

Nagore Calvo

King's College London, United Kingdom

The main focus of the paper is on understanding the role of the state as a key agent of crisis management and the transformation of the austerity state within the context of Southern Europe. While the development of the austerity state (Jessop 2016) in the Southern periphery has been largely imposed it cannot be understood only by reference to external forces and without taking into account the political dynamics within national states. Drawing on Spain, the paper analyses how the adoption of austerity in Spain opened up the opportunity for the restructuring of the political economic process (Stanely 2016) and for a redefinition of state-market relations. Furthermore, the paper also argues that these transformations are at the centre of the political crisis associated with a crisis of the federal state form characteristic of Spain. Building on cultural political economy (Jessop and Sum 2013), the paper will explore the meaning making and material practices of the growth and stability programme adopted by the Spanish government under the conservative party, People’s Party (PP), in Spain (2011-2015). Specifically, it will discuss the development and adoption of the Law on the Guarantee of Market Unity (2013) as a case study of the transformation of the state, the roll-over of new market institutions, and the dismantling of the ‘State of Autonomies’. The paper will ask how and why the unfolding of the austerity state in the context of Spain is contributing to redefine the institutional boundaries of the economy and in turn, the contours of ‘regional’ Spain.