Knowledge Regimes and Comparative Political Economy

October 30th, 2011 in Event Highlights, News

On October 26, John Campbell, Professor of Sociology at Dartmouth College and Professor of International Political Economy at the Copenhagen Business School gave two talks at BU in which he explored the question, “Where do the ideas come from over which policy makers fight?” Over lunch with faculty and graduate students, he discussed “The Politics of Policy Knowledge in the United States and Europe”; later in the afternoon, he gave a lecture entitled “Knowledge Regimes in the United States and Europe.” Both talks had their origins in a comparative research project examining the development and operation of knowledge regimes – a blindspot in the political economy literature according to Campbell and collaborator Ove Pederson – in the United States, France, Germany, and Denmark over the last twenty years.

Campbell defines a knowledge regime as a national field of policy research organizations (e.g., think tanks, government research units) that generates and disseminates policy analyses and recommendations. The project pays special attention to how change in the surrounding political-economic environment has affected knowledge regimes and whether the organizations that constitute them have grown more or less similar to each other since the late 1980s. Data are drawn from in-depth interviews with leaders from a variety of policy research organizations in each country as well as documents from each organization.

Campbell sketched out four ideal types of political economies and identified the representative knowledge regimes associated with each one. He began by distinguishing liberal market economies, such as the United States and Britain, which structure economic activity primarily through markets and corporate hierarchies in which corporate manages respond primarily to price signals and make strategic decisions without much consolation with other organizations in their environment, from coordinated market economies, such as Germany and France, which structure economic activity through non market relationships such as informal networks, formal corporatist bargaining, associations, and various forms of state intervention and regulation. He explained how the process of economic coordination and decision making in market economies is driven by market-based competition, whereas in coordinated market economies, it is also driven by institutionally based cooperation of various sorts.

Next, he drew a distinction between centralized and closed states, in which policy making is located in a few arenas that tend to be insulated from external influences of civil society and policy-making authority is vested primarily in national government, and decentralized and open states, in which policy making is much less insulated from external influences and policy making authority is often shared or delegated to lower levels of government and permanent civil service less extensive.

He went on to map the topography of knowledge regimes in the different types of political economies and to specify the organizational actors and institutional mechanism by which policy-relevant ideas are generated in different political economic types. Campbell’s research suggests that different institutional forms of political economies affect how knowledge regimes are organized and operate.

His argument proceeded as follows: liberal market economies with decentralized, open states (the United States) tend to have market-oriented knowledge regimes that are highly competitive and often partisan and adversarial. Liberal market economies with centralized, closed states (Britain) also tend to have competitive knowledge regimes, but the level of partisan competition is tempered politically by public funding for knowledge producers in civil society and by the state’s own in-house analytic capacities. Coordinated market economies with decentralized, open states (Germany) tend to have relatively more consensus-oriented knowledge regimes as a result of having political economies with strong associational and corporatist institutional arrangements, parliamentary systems that often produce coalition governments, and much public funding for knowledge producers. Finally, coordinated market economies with centralized, closed states (France) tend to have statist-technocratic knowledge regimes where much policy-relevant knowledge is produced in-house by the state. Of course, competition and conflict over ideas exist within all types of knowledge regimes.

Campbell explained how processes affect content of knowledge produced. For example, coordinated market economies produce policy knowledge that favors comparatively incremental policy reform, where liberal market economies produce policy knowledge that favors more radical reform. This is because knowledge regimes in coordinated market economies are more consensus-oriented and therefore, cautious, while in liberal market economies, they are more partisan, adversarial, and acrimonious, and therefore more prone to extreme recommendations.

In conclusion, he touched briefly on factors precipitating changes in knowledge regimes such as the Internet, changes in institutional arrangements, and finally, the nature of ideas themselves, all of which lead to changes in the policy making regime which feed back in ways that transform the knowledge regime itself, illumining the extent to which ideas are both dependent on and constitutive of their surrounding institutional environments.

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The World in 20 Years: What Role for France?

October 26th, 2011 in Event Highlights, News

Beyond the debate on France’s decline and French “exceptionalism,” a question remains. Can France, and other countries of its stature, play a significant world role in the future?

In his October 25 lecture at Boston University, Nicolas Tenzer, author of The World in 2030 and When France Disappears from the World, claimed that a significant role is possible for France, but it will require major changes in the country’s organization and attitude towards diplomacy, the transparency of its political and civil institutions and its presence in developing countries and market.

Presently, said Tenzer, the risk of France disappearing from world stage is very real: France is a declining power, faced with trade deficits, and competition from emerging market – to say nothing of the limited place of the French language and France’s limited presence in academic networks.

But there’s another side to the story: as a nuclear power and a member of the UN Security Council, France plays a leading role in the G7, G8, and G20. France has the third largest network of embassies and permanent missions around world, an impressive record of pubic service, and is home to a number of leading international companies.

The truth, Tenzer stated, lies between the two assessments. He went on to list the eleven criteria on which he assessed France’s power and potential. Among the most salient were France’s presence in “expertise markets” around the world; its presence in academic networks, especially in emerging countries; shifting anticipations of power in tomorrow’s world; the presence of civil society experts in state level decision making; the end of delimited zones of influence, especially in former colonies; the rise of the international technical organizations (e.g. World Bank); the capacity of Europe, and France’s power within Europe; and finally, the capacity of France to develop an “international mind set.”

His “to do” list for France included the following advice: France must reinforce its strategic capacity, increase the number of international circles within France (where, for example, there are no departments of “international relations”), and continue work in area of international development. France must improve its capacity for activity, especially through information sharing, partnerships with international organizations, and university networks. It must pursue bilateral relations with key countries, especially Asian countries. A better strategy in Africa, not just in the former colonies, is also necessary.

As for Jean Monnet’s predication that France would “disappear from the world” and leverage its power through Europe, Tenzer said, in response to a question, that a federal Europe is not in the immediate or even near distant future.

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Is Germany Outgrowing Europe?

October 6th, 2011 in Event Highlights, News

On October 5, 2011, Ulrike Guerot, head of the Berlin Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), gave a luncheon talk for faculty and graduate students on the economic crisis in the European Union, which she framed as a crisis of leadership in Germany. Guerot’s visit follows the publication, by the ECFR, of  What Does Germany Think about Europe, a collection of essays by German experts on politics, law, sociology, philosophy and the media, edited by Guerot and ECFR colleague Jacqueline Hénard. The new volume aims to elucidate Germany’s response to the Euro crisis, diverging attitudes toward the future of Europe, and other pressing topics in light of debates taking place within Germany. As Guerot puts it: “It is impossible to understand Germany’s behaviour on the European and global stages – on the euro, Libya or nuclear energy – without understanding the debates within Germany itself.”

In her talk at Boston University, Guerot examined Germany’s shifting relations within the European Union through the lens of the current economic crisis. While German support for European unity remains strong, the German public’s willingness to finance the bailouts of other European countries is on the decline. Germany faces a dilemma: allow the bailout of Greece to fail – setting the stage for the collapse of the eurozone – or greater fiscal integration. Guerot argued that allowing a Greek default would hurt Germany in the long term – given the widespread exposure to Greek debt – and could induce sovereign defaults in other countries.

The monetary union, with its “no bailout” clause is flawed, according to Guerot, and poses a threat to the political union. It is no longer possible, she argued, to have one without the other. While admitting the real risk of a Greek exit from the eurozone, she expressed her hope that Germany will realize its future lies within Europe and not outside. Ultimately, her desire is to see Europe move toward a system of eurobonds, which would be backed collectively by all the eurozone nations.

Related articles:

Germany: The Beleaguered European Island,” Open Democracy, September 9, 2011

Germany Goes Global: Farewell, Europe,” Open Democracy, September 14, 2011

Germany in Europe: No Longer Understood,” ECFR blog, October 14, 2011

For more updates, follow Ulrike Guerot on Twitter.

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