ABSTRACT

Four years into the 2007/8 global economic crisis andwith the semblance of a return to “business-as-usual” that leaves the deeper structural causes of the crisis unattended, the question of economic governance looms large.1 The crisis may have opened up a small democratic space for shortterm protective measures and some talk of longer-term regulatory interventions to prevent similar collapse and bailout in the future. However, “this space was equally quickly shut down again, as the political and financial establishment resisted yielding permanent ground.”2 As Bob Jessop argues, there are always many different interpretations of the crisis and of how to respond to it, but there are also asymmetries of power which are significant in the selection of crisis-interpretations and their translation into crisis-responses. This is a key factor behind the re-assertion of key elements in the hegemonic (neoliberal) project despite the initial shock to that project from the current crisis.3 The response in the rich industrialized countries-the return to fiscal conservatism (especially in Europe) and to the bonus bonanzas of late-reflect the anti-democratic nature of economic governance in some of the world’s oldest and most consolidated democracies. Some see this as evidence of a slippage into plutocracy.4 Rising levels of income inequality contribute to the erosion of institutional norms and behavior and the subversion of government, as those with economic power use “all the instruments that extreme wealth puts at their command to protect and perpetuate their position in economy, polity and society.”5