The paper provides a conceptual framework of the Special Issue by theorising and analysing the evolving nature of capitalism in emerging economies and the European periphery today. The conventional conceptual tools of comparative capitalism provide a useful structure for the analysis but have not been up to the task of capturing the changing nature of capitalism in the globalised world, in particular the rise of the emerging powers as well as their current crises. Neither do the conventional tools allow one to capture the developments in the political economies of the European periphery since the Eurozone crisis and the advent of austerity policy. In order to adequately assess these developments we need to rethink the comparative capitalism framework in the global context. To do so, we propose a more dynamic conceptual approach better suited to capturing the changing nature of political economies in and beyond the OECD world. We build upon Uwe Becker’s open Varieties of Capitalism framework, among other approaches. Our theoretical conceptualisation highlights five aspects: (1) the role of the state as a central force organising the market (2) patrimonialism, understood as a distinct structural mode of political-economic organisation based on clientelism, patronage and informal relations between actors (3) policies and political institutions (4) the role of ideas, and (5) pressures from globalisation and economic crises.