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Projecting from a Fiction: The Case of Denmark and the Financial Crisis

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Institutional and ideational crises are characterised by fundamental uncertainty about the world, and at the same time require swift action on part of decision makers. How do political actors overcome uncertainty to enable collective action? The paper argues that actors use the ideas of the pre-crisis regime and through processes of bricolage seek to fit them to radically different circumstances. This enables action, but it also privileges the actors that benefited from these ideas before the crisis. This helps explain why so relatively few changes to financial regulation are appearing from the recent crisis. The argument is illustrated through the case of financial crisis in Denmark, demonstrating that the Danish authorities used ideas developed since the banking crisis of the 1980s concurring on the discourse that the best solution to the crisis would be a further ‘consolidation' of the sector, that is, fewer small banks and stronger large banks. This shows both the strength and weakness of using old ideas for radically new problems: it enables actors to act in concert, but changes are incremental and the weaknesses of the previous regime may thus live on in the new regime.
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Keywords: financial crisis; ideational change; incrementalism; uncertainty

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School, Porcelænshaven 24B 2000, Frederiksberg, Denmark

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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