Category Archives: Financialization
I am very pleased to announce that the discussion forum on “new approaches in political economy” is now available here on the Socio-Economic Review website. The forum brings together essays by Bruno Amable, Aidan Regan, Sabina Avdagic, Lucio Baccaro on Jonas Pontusson, and myself on new developments within the field of (comparative) political economy. The forum is a continuation of our discussion started at the 2018 SASE Meeting in Kyoto. Or, per the abstract:
“The discussion on ‘New Approaches to Political Economy (PE)’ gives us a state-of-the-art overview of the main theoretical and conceptual developments within the concept of political economy. Thereby, it invites us to broaden our knowledge regarding manifold novel approaches, which make use of more complex methods to study the less stable, less predictable, but faster changing realities of smaller or bigger geographical regions. In this discussion forum, Amable takes a closer look on the nature of ‘conflict’ as well as the relationship between conflict and institutional change or stability. After stressing the relevance of comparative capitalism in general, Regan also zooms in on the political conflicts in comparative political economy from three different perspectives (electoral politics, organized interest groups and business-state elites), where he finds new avenues, tensions and research agendas are opening up. From a different perspective, Avdagic reviews the broad developments in the field of political economy with respect to the supply and demand side of redistributive policy. Thereafter, Baccaro and Pontusson sketch an alternative ‘growth model perspective’, which puts demand and distribution at the center of the analysis. Finally, Van der Zwan analyses the usefulness of financialization studies for the study of (comparative) political economy.”
Our panel on financialization and inequality at the Harvard Law School conference on money as a democratic medium can now be viewed on YouTube or below. Hear Gerald Epstein, Rana Foroohar, Rebecca Spang and yours truly speak on this important topic, under the inspired chairpersonship of Sandy Brian Hager.
For a recap of the conference and all other video presentations, follow this link.
Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis
Together with Daniel Mertens, I am co-organizing one of the panels at the 2019 ECPR General Conference in Section 11: Changing Political Economies and Welfare States. Our panel aims to analyze comparatively how the welfare state and the financial system are mutually intertwined, adopting a broader conception of finance which includes not just financial actors and their interest organizations, but also financial ideas and narratives.
From the CFP: “Scholars of the welfare state have shown how traditional welfare arrangements are challenged by new kinds of risks that have emerged in the late twentieth century. Among these risks is the process of financialization. It refers to the growing influence of financial markets and financial actors over the productive economy and over society at large, affecting the welfare state in several ways. For instance, welfare provisions may rely on financial market investment for funding while financial arrangements have also been touted as alternative sources of welfare (e.g. through asset-based welfare) and governments have developed new financial activities in order to maintain current welfare provisions. Furthermore, several indirect effects of financialization affect the sustainability of mature welfare states, such as growing indebtedness and social-economic inequalities.
Against this background, the panel has two aims: First, it hopes to reintegrate scholarship on welfare and finance to come to a better understanding of how the welfare state and the financial system are mutually intertwined, both historically and comparatively. Furthermore, we hope to approach the panel theme using a broader conception of finance: to include not just financial actors and their interest organizations, but also financial ideas and narratives, norms and practices that interact at different scales of the modern polity.”
Check out the CFP here!
This Thursday, I will be presenting new research in the seminar series of the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies.
My paper presents a historical case study of the investment politics of Dutch pension fund for public employees, ABP (Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds). Combining both quantitative and qualitative analysis, the research maps the financial flows between ABP and the broader political economy before and after WW2, while at the same time shedding light on the political considerations that informed the fund’s investment policies. I show how over time ABP’s investment politics became increasingly caught between the political interests of the state on the one hand and the dictates of dominant financial theories on the other hand.
The history of the ABP is indicative of the centrality of pension funds to the Dutch political economy. Contrary to traditional bank-based or stock-market based systems, the presence of these large funds have allowed the Netherlands to combine a generous welfare state with high financial development. Still, as the case study shows, the ongoing financialization of the welfare state has coincided with a depoliticization of pension investment. The result is a loss of public control over the flows of capital that emanate from the Dutch pension funds on the one hand and growing instability within the private pension system on the other hand.
This is unpublished work. Please e-mail, if interested in the paper.
Source: H.W. Groeneveld, “De kosten onzer sociale verzekering,” De Werkgever, February 1925, p.37.
I have written a review of Joseph Vogl’s book The Ascendancy of Finance (Polity, 2017). Read it here or below:
I am very excited to be part of this great panel on financialization and inequality at the “Money as a Democratic Medium” conference at Harvard Law School in December. Come check out this fantastic conference, if you’re in the Boston area!
Attn: anyone in the Cambridge MA area in December. I assembled this dream team to join me for a discussion of “Financialization & Inequality” at the “Money as a Democratic Medium” conference at Harvard Law School. @RebeccaSpang @NataschaZwan @MkBlyth @RanaForoohar pic.twitter.com/PPvruRZprS
— Sandy Brian Hager (@sanha926) October 15, 2018
Today I am celebrating that my article “Making Sense of Financialization” reached 500 citations on Google Scholar. It’s exhilarating and deeply flattering to see this appreciation for what originated as Chapter 2 from my dissertation. Many thanks for all the support that I have received over the past few years!
I am very honored to be one of twelve academics from the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs to have been featured in this new publication. Fast forward to page 58 to find out why pensions aren´t boring and why do-it-yourself-pensions are a bad idea. Or scroll down to read the full interview below.
Pension schemes? Bóóóring! At least, that’s what lots of people think, but not Natascha van der Zwan. On the contrary, the assistant professor and political scientist is fascinated by the subject. She compares pension systems in various countries (in historical perspective) and reflects on the way they work out for citizens. ‘Saving for later on an individual basis? That will widen the gap between rich and poor.’
Pensions are as old as time, says Natascha van der Zwan. ‘In Roman days, for instance, it was already common that the state (if one can use that term) rewarded veterans for their services with a “pension provision”, a piece of land. In The Netherlands, the first pension schemes came into being in the early 19th century. Strikingly enough, they were also, at first, meant for veterans, and for civil servants. The government provided a favor, a token of appreciation from the king to people who had distinguished themselves in government service. Soon, however, those provisions were expanded to another category of pensioners: widows and orphans. Based on the idea that one should protect families without a breadwinner from further misery.
Over the course of the 19th century pension rights were extended to other groups, and the execution of those rights sided more and more with employers. Around the turn of the century , a number of big firms already provided their workers with a pension. Still as a favor, not as a right. And actually this is still the case today. In The Netherlands we have two kinds of “pension”: a state allowance at a fixed level, to which every citizen is entitled (the “AOW”). And a supplementary pension, as a rule managed by pension funds or insurance companies and paid for by employers and employees during the course of their working life. Agreements on contributions are part of the terms of employment. Logical, as pension is in fact deferred wage: a form of salary that’s only paid after some time. ‘It’s typical for The Netherlands that management and labour organisations decide together on pension rights, often through collective labour agreements.’
Van der Zwan is working on a historical study comparing pensions schemes in Germany, the United States and The Netherlands. ‘In Germany a public pension (provided by the state) was introduced in the late 19th century. Private companies were not involved in this scheme. Even today, the government plays a leading role in pension provisions and pension funds are therefore less common in Germany than in the Netherlands. The country relies on the state pension, paid for by premiums. Current employees provide for current pensioners. But if more people retire and fewer people have a job, you’re in for a huge problem. Either workers pay more, or the government has to supplement.’
In the United States the ball lies in the employees’ court. Companies are not obliged to offer any form of pension, and usually they don’t – many people rely on their own savings. Didn’t labour unions try to change this situation? Of course, and in the seventies the American unions were a force to be reckoned with. But their influence dwindled. They simply lost the battle.’
In the Netherlands, the question if the pension system should be scrapped is the subject of heated debate. ‘Not for the first time’, says Van der Zwan. ‘In the nineties, politicians were already questioning the current system. Employees, they argued, should be more at liberty to spend or invest their deferred wages as they saw fit. But time was not ripe for this yet. This only changed when the consequences of the financial crisis became noticeable. People were dissatisfied and new ideas gained ground. And what about Germany and the US? Of course, they also feel the pressure of economic circumstances and an aging population. These countries advocate making pension provisions less voluntary, along the lines of the Dutch system.’
Van der Zwan herself is critical of the new pension ideas. ‘We know from the scientific literature: voluntary systems do not work. People don’t save, they postpone saving, or and only consider the short term. Or they have just managed to fill their pension pot when they are confronted with higher care costs. There goes their pension!’
‘There are people who say that we have become too dependent on government provisions, and that they cost too much. I am not one of those people. We know that the “do-it-yourself-pension” can make citizens very insecure, as well as leading to more inequality between those who have sufficient knowledge, discipline and responsibility to save for later, and those who haven’t. A voluntary system will widen the gap between rich and poor, between people who’ll have all their eggs in their basket, and those who’ll lose out.’
Text by Andrea Hijmans
I am very excited to be participating in the workshop on “Making Sense of the Copper Value Chain: Mapping the conceptual landscape of the anthropology of extraction in the context of financialization” at the University of Zurich over the next few days. The workshop is part of the Valueworks project on the effects of financialization along the copper value chain (project coordinators: Rita Kesselring and Stefan Leins). Read more about this project here. In my presentation, I will revisit some of the arguments made in my 2014 article “Making Sense of Financialization” (Socio-Economic Review) and suggest new avenues for future research on financialization.