Understanding the Post-Crisis Landscape: Assessing Change in Economic Management, Welfare, Work and Democracy

This seminar introduced a 6-seminar ESRC seminar series: Understanding the Post-Crisis Landscape: Assessing Change in Economic Management, Welfare, Work and Democracy. It highlighted and contested contemporary political economy approaches to macroeconomic management, welfare, work, and democracy, in the light of the global economic crisis - thereby setting the scene for four subsequent seminars to explore each of these themes in more depth. It was well attended, witnessed the presentation of a range of research findings, and prompted a number of lively and constructive discussions which will be furthered in subsequent seminars.

The post-2007/8 crisis was arguably caused by a failure of economic regulation. Initial government responses prompted questions surrounding whether we were witnessing a new, more interventionist, form of state activity, especially in the areas of monetary and fiscal policy. This subsequently gave way to a programme of welfare retrenchment, sustained and historically high levels of unemployment, and an increase in part-time and fixed-term patterns of employment. Each of these developments has been met by a range of novel and growing forms of political participation and protest. This therefore demands an engagement between the academic discipline of political economy and the concrete political economy outcomes that have occurred since 2007.

The programme was divided into four panels, each discussing one of the substantive themes of the ESRC seminar series.

In the opening panel, we heard from Magnus Ryner (King College London), who discussed how the so-called 'age of austerity' has witnessed policy makers typically ignore the extent to which the welfare state is a structural necessity for social reproduction in modern societies. These themes were then taken up by the panel discussant, Mikko Kuisma (Oxford Brookes University), who highlighted the importance of focusing on ideas, timing, and institutional legacies in understanding welfare state change.

In the second panel, on shifting patterns of work and employment, Jason Heyes (University of Sheffield) and Paul Lewis (University of Birmingham) discussed the impact of the financial/economic crisis in terms of employment protection and levels of employment. Matt Vidal (Kings College London) followed in his role as discussant, raising a number of questions related to the viability of alternative employment relations models at present.

In our third panel, Anastasia Nesvetailova (City University London) discussed the way in which the global economic crisis began as what seemed to be a financial crisis, and then quickly spiralled into a full-blown economic crisis. This has subsequently resulted in a range of increasingly complex attempts to regulate finance. Iain Hardie (University of Edinburgh) was the panel discussant and highlighted the effect that the scale of financial globalisation and financial sector has had on each of these processes.

Finally, Dr David Bailey (University of Birmingham) and Mònica Clua-Losada (UPF, Barcelona) set out their claims that protest and dissatisfaction at the introduction of austerity measures has been witnessed across the advanced industrial democracies, but that the standard democratic procedures do not seem (at least yet) to have produced a change in policies, thereby fuelling a growing criticism of contemporary democracy. Pollyanna Ruiz (University of Sussex) discussed the paper, highlighting the way in which exclusion of minority groups can occur in multiple forms within democratic processes.

More information

Find out more about the ESRC Seminar Series: Understanding the Post-Crisis Landscape.