9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN06 Critical Political Economy

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Crisis Management Building AA, AA.323

Economic Crisis and Economic Nationalism

Whatever the possible outcomes it seems unlikely - although not impossible - that the present economic crisis will produce a resurgence of economic nationalism comparable to that of the 1930s. By economic nationalism I broadly mean, at some variance to recent academic discussion of the term, a political emphasis on national economic self sufficiency. Then the figure who had above all been concerned with protecting the international market system from itself, John Maynard Keynes, spoke in 1933 of the need to bring producer and consumer within the ambit of the same national, economic and financial organisation, as an aim in itself. The subsequent period saw the entrenchment of economic interventionist government policies besides more direct ideological alternatives to laissez faire capitalism. The battery of controls established in the mid twentieth century has been by no means abolished over the last thirty years. However, a given political goal of greater or even continuing levels of national economic sufficiency has become completely unacceptable such has been the dominance of economic neoliberalism. In certain respects governments, notably the British and American, have abandoned neoliberalism over the last six months through their massive financial intervention to prevent the bankruptcy of swathes of financial and industrial capitalism. However, there is little indication of an ideological disavowal of trade, foreign direct investment or overseas outsourcing, the staples of economic globalisation. This is for two essential reasons. First, the scale of economic dependence on trade and foreign investment. Although dependence upon it varies enormously between different countries and the components of national economies, any sustained reversal would bring about not just a melt down but economic Armageddon. Second, the range of ideological alternatives to neoliberalism were discredited and exhausted in the last century. My paper will examine these issues by looking at 1) the apparent contrast between the 1930s and the present period in stimulating greater economic nationalism; 2) the reasons why a political shift towards greater economic nationalism is unlikely in the near to medium term future; 3) more tentatively, what sort of economic policies are likely to predominate in the future.