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The Regressive Recovery: Distribution, Inequality and State Power in Britain's Post-Crisis Political Economy

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This article interrogates the underlying mechanisms at the heart of Britain's post-crisis political economy. We argue that the contemporary economic recovery has been characterised by a dynamic of ‘regressive redistribution’: a socially regressive dynamic of state-led economic restructuring that has worked through two axes at the centre of the recovery. The first axis, a monetary policy framework centred upon Quantitative Easing, has driven asset-price inflation to the benefit of the wealthiest asset holders. The second axis centres upon the politics of regressive labour market restructuring which has provoked widespread wage deflation. In combination, these two axes have been central to defining the contours of the Britain's post-crisis political economy paradigm: characterised by rising asset wealth for the few, and falling living standards alongside increasing economic insecurity for wage earners. The opportunity to change path from the trends of deepening inequality that defined the pre-crisis era has not been taken. Instead, the prevailing policy paradigm of the post-crisis period – discursively unified and sustained by David Cameron's government – has intensified the regressively redistributive dynamics at the core of the neo-liberal project. Ultimately, this is likely to further entrench structural weaknesses in Britain's economy in the years ahead.
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Keywords: Britain; Quantitative Easing; crisis; inequality; labour market; recovery

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol, 11 Priory Road, Bristol, BS8 1TU, UK 2: Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI), Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences (ICOSS), University of Sheffield, 219 Porobello, Sheffield, S1 4DP, UK

Publication date: November 2, 2015

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