Making Thesis statements. devl1980. Frame 1. TYPE OF STUDY: “This thesis is a comparative historical account of..”
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TYPE OF STUDY: “This thesis is a comparative historical account of..”
RESEARCH QUESTION: “why and how the politics of economic ideas played a crucial role in the institutionalization of some varieties of neoliberalism and marginalizing other such varieties at critical junctures of the economic transitions experienced by Iberian and East-Central European countries.”
THE PUZZLE: The fact that both these regions turned neoliberal and chose certain “varieties of neoliberalism” was far from inevitable. In the wake of their economic transitions from corporatist developmentalism (Iberia) and state socialism (Eastern Europe), these European peripheries could have plausibly followed non-neoliberal directions or chosen different varieties of neoliberalism to the ones they ended up with a decade later.
NAME AND SHAME: Two national economic policy stories are particularly puzzling from this standpoint, those of postauthoritarian Spain and Romania.
WHAT WOULD EXISTING LIT SAY: Based on the existing literature, it would seem that in the early 1980s Spain was as likely to respond to the stagflation of the 1970s with a Keynesian stimulus, as did the French Socialists, or with a comprehensive monetarist and supply-side “revolution,” as in Tory Britain. Instead, and surprisingly, Spain “indigenized” Germany’s “coordinated neoliberalism.” Similarly, in the early 1990s, Romania was as likely to follow any model on the spectrum between Belarus-style authoritarian dirigisme and the orthodox neoliberalism espoused by the Baltic countries.
WHAT YOU OBSERVED: Instead, after several years of experimentation with macroeconomic heterodoxy and developmentalist industrial policy, Romania adopted a hybrid neoliberal model that layered neoliberal macroeconomic, tax and welfare policies onto social-democratic institutions like progressive labor legislation and neo-corporatism.
The main argument advanced in this study is that the genesis of these European neoliberal economic regimes is best understood by looking at how policy elites interpreted their interests at critical historical junctures marked by radical uncertainty.
UNPACK AT ABSTRACT LEVEL: I argue that these interpretative processes were neither strictly endogenous, nor did they come with an “instruction sheet.” Rather, for both countries, they were actively shaped by, and contested within, transnational networks of diffusers of neoliberal economic ideas whose advocacy was mediated by domestic institutional and cultural variables such as available translators with a strong institutional basis, resonant economic ideas and/or political ideologies).
I propose that transnational diffusion is a more dynamic and reflexive process than previously held in the sense that domestic translators not only “graft” and frame imported ideational innovations on domestic repertoires of ideas, but also transform those innovations so that they could be perceived domestically as less incongruent.
Furthermore, in both Spain and Romania these processes were not carried out by isolated individual diffusers and translators. Instead, I show they took place predominantly through transnational advocacy networks linking translators with transnational forms of public epistemic authority (the research divisions of international organizations, central bank governors’ committees) or with epistemically authoritative private agents inhabiting the transnational space (transnational networks of political parties, rating agencies, think-tanks, epistemic communities, organized capital and exceptional individuals).