Edited by Patricia Kennett
Chapter 2: Economism and Public Policy
Adrian Kay INTRODUCTION A signiﬁcant and consistent feature of the globalization debate is the contention that there now exists a series of non-negotiable external economic constraints on policy, which render certain policy choices ‘necessary’ in order for governments and workers to survive the forces of globalization. The argument usually develops that the globalization of economic activity exceeds the regulatory reach of national governments; simultaneously, the existing multilateral institutions of global economic governance are too weak to control this process; and thus global markets may eﬀectively escape political regulation. Further, the exigencies of global competition impose a certain set of economic governance structures on national governments, which to resist or avoid runs the risk that nationally located economic activity will rapidly shift to other economic spaces with more favourable governance structures. One crucial aspect of these new governance structures is the ascendancy of economic modes of thinking within the policy process. The term ‘economism’ is employed in this chapter to refer to governance structures where economic logic or economically inspired advice is institutionally embedded, normalized and held as necessary in the determination of policy choices. The concept comes from Marxist history and originally referred to the belief that the economic mode of production absolutely determines a society’s social, political and intellectual life. However, it has come to have a more speciﬁc contemporary meaning as the transcendence of economic logic in the development, implementation and evaluation of public policy (Teivainen, 2002). The characteristic of this process has been a...
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