We’re pleased to announce the arrival of the latest SPERI Paper The Social Bases of Austerity: European Tunnel Vision & the Curious Case of the Missing Left by Stephanie Mudge. Stephanie is a SPERI Research Fellow & Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California Davis. You can read the abstract and download the full paper, free, below.
The grip of austerity in European politics presents a double puzzle: electorally weak centre-left parties that appear unable or unwilling to formulate an alternative, and the surprising efficiency with which the EU, international institutions, and national governments have jointly pursued ‘fiscal consolidation’. This is all the more surprising in historical perspective, since many left parties emerged from the last great crisis as vehicles for building voter appeal on the basis of a marriage of ‘new’ economics with the traditional leftist theme of equality. Why are today’s centre-left parties failing to replay this historical role? This paper looks into this puzzle by considering how the relationship between professional economics and party politics changed between the late interwar years and the present, noting that this relationship has produced two kinds of authority figures in unsettled times: the national, party-based economist (NPE) of the 1930s versus the European economist-technocrat (EET) that features prominently today. I suggest that the EET expresses a historically specific European political order in which professional economics tends to exert authority over, not through, partisan politics. This shift, I argue, may help to explain the curious persistence of tunnel vision in European politics since the crisis.