Economic exceptionalism in times of crisis

About the project

AIGThe 2008 global financial crisis was met with a host of exceptionalist measures, as bailouts, stimulus and then austerity measures were rammed through legislatures or introduced through executive powers. A quick survey of economic history reveals that exceptionalism has played an ongoing role in liberal democratic government, such as in early efforts to put down major strikes, and in emergency legislation like the New Deal.

Yet, not all governments have been as keen to use such measures, even when faced with powerful crises. While British Prime Minister Heath and American President Nixon both declared states of emergency to respond to economic crises in the 1970s, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s administration avoided such explicitly exceptionalist measures. What do these differences tell us about the place of economic exceptionalism in the evolution of liberal government?

In this research project, I seek to rehabilitate the concept of exceptionalism, which many scholars have rejected in recent years for its Schmittian overtones. I do so in a way that steps away from such absolutist conceptions and reconceptualizes exceptionalism as an everyday practice, or tool, of liberal political and economic government.

I have published a number of articles that develop a theory of the logic of economic exceptionalism and its relationship with security exceptionalism. I am now working on the next stage of this research, which involves archival research into British and American economic policies of the 1970s and 1980s.Margaret Thatcher 1979 election

By examining both the politics and the practicalities of exceptionalist policies, we can develop a more nuanced understanding of how these techniques are used to resolve some of the constitutive tensions in liberalism—tensions that are becoming all too apparent in recent years.

A few related publications

Technocratic Exceptionalism: Monetary Policy and the Fear of Democracy.” International Political Sociology. Vol. 12, No. 4, 2018, pp. 328-345. [Read]

“Bring Politics Back to Monetary Policy: How Technocratic Exceptionalism Fuels Populism” Foreign Affairs, December 6, 2017. [Read]

“Security, Economy, Population: The Political Economic Logic of Liberal Exceptionalism,” Security Dialogue. Vol. 48, No. 5, 2017, pp. 375-392. [Read]

I have also posted a blog here and on the SPERI blog which gives some sense of where my future research on this topic is heading.