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Common trajectories, variable paces, divergent outcomes? Models of European capitalism under conditions of complex economic interdependence

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Globalization is widely held to circumscribe the parameters of political and economic choice in contemporary Europe, just as it has come to circumscribe the parameters of debate on the future of European models of capitalism. Yet opinions on the question of convergence nonetheless vary markedly, with proponents of the hyperglobalization thesis pointing to a simple and inexorable process of neoliberal convergence while an increasingly influential school of neo-institutionalists point to a rather more complex process of 'dual' or 'co-convergence', reinforcing the distinctiveness of liberal and coordinated market economies. In both accounts, the exhibited pattern of convergence (dual or otherwise) is seen to be driven by globalization. In this paper I provide a theoretical and empirical critique of this important literature, challenging the contextualization of the question of convergence with respect to globalization which both perspectives share. I advance a distinctive variant of the new institutionalism which emphasizes: (i) the contingency of any process of convergence observed; (ii) the frequently political as opposed to economic nature of convergent tendencies; (iii) the counter-tendencies which might be mobilized to such tendencies; and (iv) the invariably far greater significance, in the establishment of common trajectories, of regional rather than genuinely global processes of integration. Though common trajectories are discernible within contemporary Europe, associated in particular with the institutional architecture of EMU and an accelerating process of European economic integration, they have been embraced more or less enthusiastically and at variable paces, leading not to convergent but to divergent outcomes.
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Keywords: 'varieties of capitalism' approach; EMU; Globalization; convergence; gravity models; social democracy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Birmingham

Publication date: May 1, 2004

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