Political Events and Economic Ideas
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Political Events and Economic Ideas

Edited by Ingo Barens, Volker Caspari and Bertram Schefold

The influence of political developments on the evolution of economic thought is the main theme behind this book. As the authors reveal throughout the book, history has shown many times that political events can trigger the formulation of new economic conceptions that in turn influence the future economic development of a country.
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The demise of the Soviet Union caused many important bifurcations. I want to make a few obversations on a bifurcation which concerns the development of economic theory and of economic analysis. I refer to the debate on ‘varieties of capitalism’, which involved many economists for a number of decades. At least two species of the beast had been identified. ‘Euro-continental capitalism’ and ‘Anglo-American Capitalism’. The first allowed for a generous dose of public involvement in production and distribution, in the shape of the so-called ‘mixed economy’. Public involvement in production and distribution had been with us for thousands of years, and up to the 1980s it did not show any real sign of wanting to disappear. But, in the countries of continental Europe, an abundant dose of corporatism was also present, analysed by many scholars, like Andrew Shonfield, Ralf Dahrendorf, Fritz Scharpf, Michel Albert. In these countries, some goods and services were produced and distributed by private agents according to unfettered free-market rules. In the majority of cases, however, production and distribution were (and still, to some extent, are) organised according to modes requiring the participation of agents like the unions, the State and other entities which do not correspond to individual private agents. This was particularly clear in sectors like banking and even a comparative study of commercial law on the Continent revealed (and still reveals) the existence of a Weltanschauung which does not see companies as exclusively composed of individuals, but gives them a distinct legal...

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