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Explaining Political Tunnel Vision: Politics and Economics in Crisis-Ridden Europe, Then and Now

  • Stephanie L. Mudge (a1)

Abstract

The grip of austerity in European politics since 2008 presents a double puzzle: electorally weak center-left parties offering no definite alternative, and the surprisingly efficient pursuit of “fiscal consolidation”. To understand this double puzzle this article investigates the institutional bases of alternative economic thinking during the 1930s versus the post-2008 crisis years. Noting the recent prominence of a new social type, the European economist-technocrat (eet), I highlight the historically specific order to which the eet is indigenous: rarefied, international professional circuits that tend to work over, not through, party politics. This contrasts sharply with the nationally-based, party-connected economists who developed new economic orthodoxies between the 1930s and 1960s, including Keynes himself. Approaching the study of economic culture in the public sphere in a Polanyian moral markets framework, I argue that the linkages between European economics and financial technocracies help to explain Europe’s double puzzle. Theoretically, I argue that a focus on expertise and parties, and not just states, is central to our understanding of economic culture in the public sphere.

L'emprise de l'austérité sur les politiques Européennes depuis 2008 présente une double énigme : l'absence d'alternative portée par des partis de centre-gauche affaiblis, et la poursuite surprenante d'efficacité de la “consolidation fiscale”. Pour comprendre cette double énigme, cet article étudie les bases institutionnelles de la pensée économique alternative durant les années 1930 et les années qui suivirent la crise de 2008. A partir du constat de l'affirmation récente d'un nouveau type social, l'Economiste-Technocrate Européen (ETE), je souligne l'ordre historique caractéristique de l'ETE : des circuits professionnels internationaux très fermés qui passent, non pas à travers, mais au dessus des partis politiques. Cette situation contraste fortement avec celle des économistes proches des partis qui, comme Keynes lui-même, ont contribué entre les années 1930 et les années 1960, au développement des nouvelles orthodoxies économiques. En abordant l'étude de la culture économique dans la sphère publique à partir d'un cadre théorique Polanyian, il s'agit de montrer que les liens entre les économistes européens et les technocraties financières rendent compte de notre double énigme Européenne. D'un point de vue théorique, l'article souligne l'importance qu'il y a à prendre en considération l'expertise et les partis, et pas seulement les Etats, pour comprendre la culture économique dans la sphère publique.

Der Einfluss der seit 2008 gängigen Sparmaßnahmen auf die europäische Politik gibt ein Doppelrätsel auf: einerseits keine von den geschwächten links-mitte Parteien getragene Alternative, andererseits ein überraschender, effizienter Ausbau der Steuerkonsolidierung. Um dieses Doppelrätsel verstehen zu können, befasst sich dieser Beitrag mit den institutionellen Grundlagen des alternativen wirtschaftlichen Gedankenguts der 1930er und der auf die 2008er Krise folgenden Jahre. Ausgehend von dem kürzlich entstandenen neuen Sozialtypus, dem europäischen Wirtschaftstechnokraten (European economist-technocrat, EET), wird der historische Rahmen des EET hervorgehoben: sehr geschlossene, wirtschaftliche Berufskreise, die nicht mehr quer durch, sondern über die Parteien hinaus verlaufen. Ganz anders die parteinahen Wirtschaftswissenschaftler, die, wie Keynes, in den 1930er und 1960er Jahren zur Entwicklung neuer Wirtschaftsorthodoxien beigetragen haben. Die Untersuchung der Wirtschaftskultur des öffentlichen Bereichs, eingegrenzt von Polanyians Theorie, verdeutlicht, dass die Beziehungen zwischen europäischen Wirtschafts- und Finanztechnokratien das europäische Doppelrätsel verstehen helfen. Aus theoretischer Perspektive betrachtet, muss ein Fokus nicht nur auf Staaten, sondern auch auf Sachwissen und Parteien gelegt werden, um die Wirtschaftskultur des öffentlichen Bereichs verstehen zu können.

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Keywords

Explaining Political Tunnel Vision: Politics and Economics in Crisis-Ridden Europe, Then and Now

  • Stephanie L. Mudge (a1)

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