9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN06 Critical Political Economy

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Social Theory and the Financial Crisis Building AA, AA.323

The Global Financial Crisis and the Irrelevance of European Integration Theory

The global financial crisis is one of those rare instances where the 'history of events' shatters existing instututions and, to some extent, structures of the longue duree (Braudel). As such, it is clear that it represents a turning point that will shape the future of not only the capitalist world economy but also the European Union. In an age when policy makers and academics alike have assigned central importance to "norms", the effects of the crisis has made a mockery of the most central of these, namely the stability norms that has underpinned the European Monetary Union (EMU) and the competition norms on state aids that has underpinned the Single European Market (SEM). In strenuous efforts to rescue the monetary and financial system, member states have unceremoniously discarded these norms and the odd Commissioner who protests is dismissed as out of touch. Beyond this, the crisis has profound effects on "the real" economy as yet again euphoric predictions of a revitalisation of the European economy and "decoupling" from the United States gives way to a gloomy realisation that stagnation, and even perhaps depression and deflation is on the agenda. Yet, what does European integration theory have to say about the causes and effects of the financial crisis that is going to be central in defining the future nature of the EU-beast? The answer is "nothing of importance" and just like the odd protesting Commissioner it indicates just how out of touch and obsolete this self-referential club of the study of the EU sui generis is when it concerns the essentials of its object of study. In this paper we locate the main reason for this irrelevance in the 19th century 'disciplinary split' of the social sciences which integration theory has failed to transcend. By way of remedy, we conclude by offering our own version of IPE that "solves" the "agent-structure" problem (Wendt, 1995) through a number of contemporary inflections of central insights by Marx and Weber in what might somewhat tongue-in-cheek be called a neo-neo (neo-Marxist-neo-Weberian) synthesis.