SPERI Research Projects

Civic Capitalism

Colin Hay & Tony Payne

The global financial crisis which first began to be noticed in 2007 and then broke with full force in autumn 2008 has created an intense debate in academic, business, journalistic and political circles about what went wrong and how operational faults in the prevailing Western model of political economy might best be repaired.  More importantly, it has begun to stimulate a deeper, albeit slower moving, consideration of whether the Anglo-American world in particular was working with the right model of political economy in the first place.

The basis of this debate is that the once dominant Anglo-liberal model crashed intellectually in 2008.  Even though vested interests in banks, corporations and some governments seek to put it back together again in broadly similar fashion, there is now a growing sense amongst some intellectuals, some policy-makers and some emerging popular movements that this form of capitalism is no longer working.  Lots of critical ideas are circulating, many of them within green movements somewhat distanced intellectually and politically from mainstream debates about political economy.  They need to be ‘brought in’ and connected to other social and political strands of new thinking.  The big task is in effect to think through a new sustainable model of political economy in the West that can deliver both what the elected politicians need most in the short term, which is economic growth, and what the planet and its peoples need most in the long term, which is the sustainability of the environment.  For want of a better label, we call this new model ‘civic capitalism’, meaning by use of that phrase a capitalism that works fundamentally to serve the interests of its citizens.  Its distinguishing features contrast markedly with those of the failed Anglo-liberal model and include:

  • the re-emergence of a broader, more open-ended and dynamic dominant ideology
  • a policy community open to different, more interventionist, more fluid approaches to economic and social challenges
  • coordinated re-regulation of markets and risk management in the collective public interest
  • serious engagement with sustainable models of energy use and resource conservation
  • economic stimulation built upon investment rather than debt-fuelled consumption
  • the development of alternative standardised measures of national economic performance beyond GDP (and hence economic output)
  • the integration into this growth model of the concept of ‘social quality’
  • a shared commitment to reducing prevailing levels of inequality between countries and peoples
  • the creation of more intensive and sophisticated mechanisms of global governance capable of serving as the guiding intelligence of the whole global economy.

This project seeks to build these features into a coherent new model of capitalism.

Crisis, Growth & the Future of Capitalist Diversity in Europe

Colin Hay

Crises are typically associated with significant bouts of ideational, policy and institutional change.  Yet, as in the crises which afflicted the advanced industrial democracies in the 1970s, such change was not simply precipitated by an accumulation of objective contradictions to a point of no return.  Indeed, in most cases, bouts of institutional redesign followed improvements in almost all indices of economic performance and led to a significant worsening in precisely the same indices.  Crises are not self-evident; they are ambiguous and interpretable.  Indeed, crises are, as much as anything else, constructions – the point of no return, the need for a decisive intervention and the nature of that intervention are all better seen as constructed than as given by the objective conditions of the system itself.  This is a theme which animates my current work on responses to the global financial crisis.  It is a theme that I intend to develop further in both cross-temporal and cross-national comparative work.

The project explores in some detail and comparatively this most recent crisis.  This I see as a crisis not of debt but of growth.  My work to date has concentrated on the demise of the Anglo-liberal growth model, as I have termed it, in Britain, the US and Ireland and its contagion effects throughout Europe; but I now hope to develop a more extensive comparative analysis.

The G20 & the Global Governance of Global Crisis

Tony Payne

This project considers why the G20 was created at leaders level in 2008, how it has sought to manage the global crisis since that time and what now needs to be done to increase its effectiveness and legitimacy as a key agent of contemporary global governance. As such, it reviews the debate about reforming the G7 and assesses why a move was made to adopt the G20 format at the height of the global financial crisis in the autumn of 2008.  It assesses in detail the policy decisions of the various summits that have taken place so far, dividing them into two periods – from Washington to London, and then from Toronto onwards – in terms of their efficacy and level of engagement with the management of the crisis and its aftermath. It then considers the structural character of the G20 as a process and system of global governance and reviews critiques that have been mounted and proposals for reform that have been made.  Finally, it seeks to form a judgement about the ideological orientation of G20 governance.

Reorienting the British Growth Model

Craig Berry

The crisis that the British political economy faces is not at heart a crisis of debt; it is instead a crisis of and indeed for growth.  It is, moreover, a crisis of and for an excessively liberalised Anglo-American form of capitalism and the Anglo-liberal growth model to which it gave rise. This research assesses the prospects for reorienting Britain’s discredited growth model in the direction of both greater sustainability and greater equity. It seeks to produce original contributions to both academic literatures and public policy development across a range of areas, including:

  • Capital allocation. The project will consider the scope for (a) institutional investors and (b) alternative finance to contribute to a more sustainable and equitable growth model.
  • Industrial policy. The project will investigate which sectors are most likely to produce sustainable and equitable growth for the British economy, and how the state can best support such sectors.
  • The welfare state. The project will consider how (a) employment support and (b) asset-based welfare can be reconfigured to better support a more sustainable and equitable growth strategy.

Anglo-American Capitalism

Jeremy Green

This project develops Jeremy’s doctoral research on Anglo-American capitalism and involves developing a monograph on ‘The Political Economy of the Special Relationship’. The project examines Anglo-American contours of financial deregulation and globalisation and the relationship of these processes with the current crisis.

The City and British Development

Jeremy Green

This research project traces the evolution of the role of the City of London and banking within the UK political economy, examining the way in which the City is orienting itself towards rising Chinese financial power.

UK’s Post-Crisis Political Economy

Jeremy Green & Scott Lavery

This project seeks to contribute conceptually and empirically to our understanding of the UK’s post-crisis political economy. Specifically, the project seeks to investigate how Britain’s emerging crisis response – in particular its policy of quantitative easing, fiscal austerity and the rise of increasingly precarious labour markets – work together to secure ‘recovery’ but in an increasingly ‘regressively redistributive’ manner. The project aims to identify how the crisis response is likely to deepen income inequalities in the UK, and exacerbate economic imbalances which undermined the British dysfunctional growth model in the first place.

The Politics of Austerity

Stephanie Mudge

This project deals with the history and present of the ‘politics of austerity’ in Europe and the United States, considering in particular how relationships between academic economics, political parties,  government organizations (including those of the EU), and financial institutions have shaped the construction of ways of thinking about financial and budgetary policy in the interwar and early post-war periods versus the post-financial crisis present.

Knowledge & Politics

Stephanie Mudge

The project involves building a database on the universe of political parties since the 1700s in 22 Western countries and looking into possible resources on the development of universities, research foundations, think tanks, and the credentials of party officials for purposes of incorporation into the dataset. As well as interviewing US and London based figures connected to centre-left parties, magazines, and think tanks on the development of the leftist field of expertise since the 1990s.

Do Offshore Financial Centres Contribute to Financial Crises?

Adam Barber

The primary purpose of this research is to evaluate whether offshore financial centres contribute to financial crisis. ‘Clean’ financial markets and global financial stability are a public good which requires regulatory oversight and robust governance structures. As such, this research focuses on the offshore financial industry and looks to examine the role which offshore financial centres play as part of the wider global economy. Specifically,  that opaque practices in offshore banking, securitization and insurance, facilitated by offshore financial centres, operate in a way which is detrimental to the sound governance of financial markets, undermining financial stability and exacerbating crisis by providing a jurisdictional and legislative environment which is free from more stringent ‘onshore’ regulation and which serves to disguise and conceal risk within the financial system.

Precarious Employment

Scott Lavery

This project focuses on precarious employment in Europe, with a particular focus on Zero Hour contracts in the UK. This research is done in collaboration with other young academics from the Foundation for European Progressive studies. It seeks to develop a scale of ‘precarity’ through which cross-European comparisons can be drawn. This will allow to locate the deepening of insecure and non-standard work practices within a European political economy in crisis.

The uneven geography of ‘Anglo-liberal’ growth: New Labour and Scottish Devolution

Scott Lavery

Scott’s thesis looks at the degree to which New Labour’s political economy deepened regional inequalities within the UK. In particular, the project examines how asset price inflation, wage repression and debt-fuelled consumption in the pre-crisis period distributed the benefits and burdens of growth in an uneven manner. This framework will be complimented by a specific case study of economic governance within Scotland during the New Labour period. The thesis will trace how ‘Anglo-liberal’ growth was embedded constitutionally, socially and politically through an on-going interaction between the UK’s political centre and periphery. The project will provide a new framework for understanding the ‘re-scaling’ of British state power as well as developing our understanding of the regional economic imbalances which continue to deepen as a result of the politics of austerity and public sector retrenchment today.