Authors Meet Critics: "Resilient Liberalism in Europe’s Political Economy" by Vivien Schmidt & Mark Thatcher (eds) (CUP 2013)

Bruno Amable , Wolfgang Streeck and Mark Pennington
Book Author:
Vivien Schmidt
Session Organizer:
Mark Thatcher
Gerhard Schnyder
Thursday, 2 July 2015: 2:15 PM-3:45 PM
TW2.2.04 (Tower Two)
Although from the standpoint of the United States, Europe appears as a haven of social democracy, strongly opposed to economic liberalism, in truth since at least the 1980s the influence of neo-liberal ideas, institutions, and policies appear to have grown steadily.  These have profoundly changed the ways in which capitalism works across Europe’s different national economies as well as had major impacts on its welfare states.  The central question for this book and conference project concerns why neo-liberal ideas have proven so resilient despite many challenges.

To begin with, Europe offered a relatively ‘cold climate’, with well-entrenched alternative ideas such as social democracy to say nothing of strong Marxist traditions. Moreover, since the 1980s, neo-liberalism has been subject to powerful critiques. Indeed, attempts at neo-liberal policies and institutions have been subject to apparent major difficulties and indeed often failures, while alternative models, notably social democratic ones, have been lauded as successful. But the real resilience of neo-liberal ideas has been revealed in the 2000s: despite major financial and economic crises and failures (not just the 2008 financial crisis but also crises such as the sovereign bond crisis and the earlier dot-com boom and bust), together with on-going difficulties of unemployment, low growth, income inequality and stagnation or even declines, further neo-liberal responses have been sought. These included public spending cuts, reliance on regulation of powerful markets, liberalisation of markets and delegation of powers to unelected bodies designed to increase ‘market discipline’.

To answer the question of why neo-liberal ideas have been resilient despite powerful challenges, the project will examine the in-roads of economic liberalism on the European Union and its member-states as well as its spillover effects on political liberalism and democracy from a range of vantage points.