The Power of Economic Ideas – Through, Over and In – Political Time: The Construction, Conversion and Crisis of the Neoliberal Order in the US and UK

Journal of European Public Policy

Author/s (editor/s):

Wesley Widmaier

Publication year:

2016

Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Wesley Widmaier, ‘The Power of Economic Ideas – Through, Over and In – Political Time: The Construction, Conversion and Crisis of the Neoliberal Order in the US and UK’, Journal of European Public Policy, 23(3) 2016: 338‒56.

In recent years, scholarly concern for ‘great transformations’ has yielded to a stress on ‘gradual transitions’. In this contribution, I offer a discursive institutionalist model of the shifts in ideational power which drive order construction, consolidation and crisis. First, I argue that leaders exercise rhetorical power through ideas, employing communicative appeals to shape principled beliefs. Second, I argue that élites employ epistemic power over ideas to consolidate intellectual consensus. Finally, I posit that as structural power in ideas assumes a life of its own, this breeds overconfidence and crisis. Empirically, I then track the development of the neoliberal order over Reagan’s and Thatcher’s use of power through ideas in constructing principled restraints on the market power of labour, Clinton- and Blair-era efforts to concentrate power over ideas in central banks, and the structural power of New Keynesian ideas that obscured concentrations of financial power, culminating in the global financial crisis.

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