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Politics in the Austerity State

Politics in the Austerity State

Olaf Cramme

11 July 2013


Policy Straitjackets, Electoral Promises & Ideological Space in Crisis Europe

Campaigning for election to the European Parliament in 2014 is about to begin and Europe’s mainstream political parties are fighting a grand ideological battle between growth and austerity which they believe will define the post-crisis political era.

However, electorates largely reject these new dividing lines which parties on the Left and Right are seeking to draw. While they believe cutting government spending is the right way to fix the region's economy despite the pain it is causing (PewResearch: May 13, 2013), they also appear to mistrust the level of influence that policymakers claim to have over economic outcomes in the globally integrated austerity state.

Against this background, this paper by Policy Network Director Olaf Cramme contemplates the extent to which political choices are still feasible in today’s Europe. Firstly, it considers the policy ‘straitjackets’ policymakers are locked into – brought about by pressures arising from globalisation, EU monetary union, and the heavy legacy of debt accumulation. Secondly, it discusses why a majority of European populations appear to have accommodated themselves with this new settlement, voting for pragmatism and credibility over big ideological promises related to small state free market capitalism or one nation socialism. Finally, it offers some ideas on how sharper political dividing lines can be drawn within the narrow policy space available.

About the Author:
Olaf Cramme
is director of Policy Network and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics’ European Institute. His latest book is Progressive Politics after the Crash: Governing from the Left (Co-edited with Patrick Diamond & Michael McTernan), I.B Tauris, forthcoming Sept 2013.

This paper was first presented at the 10th European Seminar of ELIAMEP (Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy), “Europe in Crisis, Citizens in Protest”, Nafplion, 4-7 July 2013.

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