31 Mar 2008 5:00pm - 7:00pm CRASSH


A lecture by Vivien A. Schmidt

The two predominant theoretical approaches in political economy today – 'convergence through globalization' which sees convergence to a single neo-liberal model of capitalism and the 'varieties of capitalism' which instead finds divergence into two ideal-types, liberal market economies vs. coordinated market economies – both tend to downplay the importance of state action. This is because they assume financial markets and/or firms to be the primary forces in global capitalism today. Their methodological approaches, rational choice and/or historical institutionalism, tend to reinforce their substantive theories by disaggregating the state into its institutional components and/or by focusing on the strategic actions of institutional actors.


This paper argues first of all that by taking state action – used as shorthand for government policy forged by the political interactions of public and private actors in given institutional contexts – as a significant factor, national capitalisms can be seen to come in at least three varieties: liberal, coordinated, and state-influenced market economies. But secondly, by bringing the state back in across varieties of capitalisms, the paper shows that we also put the political back into political economy – in terms of policy, polity, and politics. To explore the political in all its variety, however, the paper demonstrates that we also need at least one more methodological approach, discursive institutionalism, which, by taking the role of ideas and discourse seriously, brings political actors as sentient beings back in. This in turn enables us fully to exploit the insights derived from examining the political in political economy across varieties of capitalism.



Vivien A. Schmidt is Jean Monnet Chair of European Integration and Professor of International Relations at Boston University and Visiting Professor at Sciences Po, Paris. She has also been a professor at the University of Massachusetts and visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna, the European University Institute in Florence, the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, the Universities of Paris and Lille, and visiting scholar at Nuffield College, Oxford University and at Harvard University, where she is currently a faculty affiliate in the Center for European Studies.


Professor Schmidt has published widely in the areas of European political economy, institutions, and democracy. Recent books include: Democracy in Europe: The EU and National Polities (Oxford 2006), The Futures of European Capitalism (Oxford 2002), Welfare and Work in the Open Economy (2 vols, with F. W. Scharpf, Oxford 2000), and From State to Market? The Transformation of French Business and Government (Cambridge 1996). She has also published over eighty articles and chapters in books. Professor Schmidt is the recipient of numerous awards, distinctions, and fellowships. These include the Franqui Interuniversity Chair for Foreign Scholars, held at the Free University of Brussels and Louvain (January to June 2007); a French Council for Scientific Research award as a Visiting Researcher at the Center for the Study of Politics (CEVIPOF) of Sciences Po (July-Dec. 2007); a Rockefeller Foundation Residency grant at the Bellagio Center; a Fulbright EU Research Award held at Oxford University; Chevalier in the Order of the Palmes Académiques of France; the Distinguished Scholar Award of the University of Massachusetts; a special award for her book, Democratizing France (Cambridge 1990) at the Gaston Defferre Prize Ceremony, Marseilles; a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar Award held at the University of Paris; and a pre-dissertation fellowship under the Fulbright-Hays program. She is also past head of the European Union Studies Association-USA. She received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and her M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Chicago.

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