The transformations of capitalism

Global capitalism has entered a new phase: tertiarisation and internationalisation of economies, weakening of the state’s regulatory role, deregulation and privatisation, increased role of financial actors, corporate concentration, intensified competition, acceleration of technical progress, growing importance of information and knowledge as factors of production, upheavals associated with the development of the digital economy, increased separation between labour and capital ownership, between execution and design.

Inspired by the macroscopic approaches initiated by Marx, Weber, Polanyi and Rokkan, CEE has chosen to develop its explorations of political economy. These approaches reject the division of economics and politics into two distinct fields of study, instead emphasising their interdependence and the growing difficulty of distinguishing between political and economic actors whose interests, conflicts and dominance hierarchies underpin contemporary political economies. This approach is also characterised by the attention paid to the role of actors and interests (the question of agency), and to the conflicts and dominance hierarchies that underpin our contemporary political economies and the transformations of capitalism. This axis draws on Sciences Po’s two crosscutting programmes,  MaxPo and LIEPP, with which it maintains close collaborations, the first co-headed by Jenny Andersson, the second by Bruno Palier.

Over the next five years, this axis will focus primarily on three major themes:

1) The transformations of capitalism, governance and regulations in a context of global and European economic interdependence.

The aim will be to explore changes in the forms of governance of modern capitalism. Particular attention will be paid to the analysis of processes of change over time, to the role of the crisis in disrupting balances and to the role of economic ideas in the formation of political trajectories. The aim of this approach, therefore, is to analyse the transformations of modern capitalism mainly in Europe, but also within a broader comparative context, by exploring both the nature of these transformations and their economic, social and political effects, from a historically situated perspective. To this end, Colin Hay, who has been a key player in structuring the field of political economy in France (joint director with Andy Smith of the Spéco - Political science of economics group at AFSP at the French Association of political science) has set up a partnership between Sciences Po and Princeton University (European Union ProgramSophie Meunier) entitled EUROGLOB , in order to develop a research agenda on the interactions between globalisation and Europeanisation in post-crisis conditions. Research on the political economy of the world’s big global cities, but also on the strategies of the big infrastructure firms (cf. Cities, borders and (im)mobilities) will also feed into research on this axis. Finally, the recent arrival of Matthias Thiemann, whose work focuses on the regulation of the banking sector and changes in the financial markets, further reinforces this dynamic. In addition, these investigations could link with a series of PhD theses currently in progress and with CEE’s participation in the innovative PhD training programme coordinated by Oslo University, PLATO “The Post-crisis Legitimacy of the European Union European Training Network” (Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks).

2) The transformations of capitalism and of the labour market.

While the digital economy represents new opportunities for jobs, we are nevertheless witnessing the emergence of a labour system divided between a creative class living at the heart of the world’s big urban centres, and a class of people who work for that creative class through service platforms. Exploring the effects of this new economy first raises the question of the role of public policies in different European countries (labour market regulation and organisation, but also social protection systems). It also raises central questions about the transformation of social groups and the creation of new divisions (winners and losers in the digital economy), on the reconfigurations of social democracy and on the development of a potential reservoir of voters for far-right parties (see Tensions in representative democracy).

3) The interactions between the varieties of capitalism and social protection systems.

Changes in the labour market are also leading to the emergence of new social risks that are poorly covered by existing social protection systems, where tax bases are being eroded by the hollowing out of the middle classes. The aim, therefore, is to explore whether and how Europe’s different systems of social protection can adjust and the links between growth models and social protection systems. Several PhD theses have already been defended that fit in with the current of Political Economy (Lisa Kastner (Maxpo) and Tom Chevalier), and others are underway (Tiago Moreira on the crisis in Southern Europe’s welfare states, Andreas Eisl on austerity policies in the Eurozone).