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'Habitation vs. improvement' and a Polanyian perspective on bank bail-outs

By Matthew Watson

Abstract

The bank bail-outs enacted by the Brown government in the wake of the 2007 credit crunch have had a distinctive political character. Despite the government's pronouncements on the merits of swift and decisive interventions, I argue that this does not amount to a return to the interventionist regulatory form associated with post-war British welfare capitalism. The Polanyian distinction between 'habitation' and 'improvement' is used to show that the bail-outs were designed by contrast to defend the underlying deregulatory logic of the existing financial regime. The only real change of note was to uncover forcibly the often hidden influence of the state in the making and regulation of an ostensibly market-led neoliberalism and the creation instead of a much more overt state-led neoliberalism. Habitation strategies were incorporated into a structure of financial deregulation, making it more rather than less difficult to rejuvenate state capacities consistent with enhancing societal welfare. The bank bail-outs offered short-term salvation for distressed firms within the financial sector without providing the state with socialised control over the conduct of banking business in order to promote forms of social policy consistent with post-war British welfare capitalism

Topics: JN101, HJ
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1936

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