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The rise in inequality has been explained with reference to organized groups and the lobbying of the financial sector. This article argues that the image of politics as organized combat is contradicted by empirical evidence on lobbying in the United States, and does not travel well to Europe. The power of finance does not operate through organized political influence. Rather, politics in the interest of capital unfolds as a structural feature of advanced economies over time. Tellingly, at the height of the financial crisis, one of the most promising strategies of institutions seeking government support was not organizing for combat, but collective inaction. Our challenge, then, is to explain how the power of finance has built up and is playing out in creating inequality. A more structural, less agency-focused perspective highlights how the rise of finance has been supported by actors that few would accuse of being finance-friendly, such as the European center-left parties and consumers. Reconceptualizing the power of finance has important implications for political solutions to rising inequality.

The literature on financial regulation has typically emphasized the role of the powerful financial industry in shaping regulatory outcomes. However, capture theories cannot explain the prominence of financial consumer protection in post-crisis reform agendas. By contrast, this paper argues that, despite their collective action disadvantage, a polymorphous network of civil society organizations was able to gain momentum after the financial crisis and to influence the financial reform process. In this policy window, where decision-makers were looking out for an alternative source of expertise, a transnationally connected civil society network successfully raised the issue of consumer protection on reform agendas in tandem with public entrepreneurs and on the back of a popular backlash against big finance. This argument will be explored through a comparative study of the impact of transnational pressures on policy-makers in Europe and the US in the immediate aftermath of the crisis. In the conclusion, the paper discusses the substance of the financial reforms that have been undertaken.

Pendant le long après-guerre, les crises n’étaient qu’un phénomène conjoncturel et une exception par rapport au régime normal de croissance et de progrès social. De nombreux concepts fondamentaux des sciences sociales – la démocratie telle que nous la comprenons habituellement, avec ses marchés encastrés, ses électorats éclairés, ses élites politiques bienveillantes et ses alliances progressistes qui permettent de résoudre des problèmes – semblent inadaptés pour comprendre les bouleversements sociaux actuels. Dans le sillage de la crise financière de 2008, l’on constate l’effondrement des alliances majoritaires, le retour du populisme à grande échelle, tant dans le monde occidental qu’au niveau mondial, et l’irruption de protestations sociales chaotiques et parfois violentes. Les forces qui constituaient l’ossature d’un capitalisme articulé à l’État providence semblent obsolètes face aux élites financières et politiques qui, paradoxalement, sont à la fois déconnectées du cadre national mais aussi parfois directement liées aux mouvements nationalistes et populistes. Des politiques exploitant le ressentiment, d’autres fondées sur les identités locales, et de nouvelles politiques de classe interagissent sous des formes que nous ne comprenons pas encore. Ainsi, que le néolibéralisme engendre aujourd’hui l’autoritarisme n’est pas le moindre des paradoxes. En même temps, ces processus ne sont pas tous nouveaux et doivent être replacés dans le contexte des clivages socio-économiques et culturels produits par l’avènement du néolibéralisme dans les années 1970. Ce volume réunit des positions défendues par des universitaires spécialisés en histoire économique, en sociologie économique et en économie politique, sous la forme de brèves notes de réflexion préparées pour la Conférence du cinquième anniversaire du MaxPo, les 12 et 13 janvier 2018, à Paris.

Dodd-Frank, the US financial reform law passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis, established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new federal regulator with the sole responsibility of protecting consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices. This decision marked the end of a highly politicized reform debate in the US Congress, involving lobbying from business associations and civil society groups, in which proponents of the new bureau would normally have been considered to be much weaker than its opponents. Paradoxically, an emerging civil society coalition successfully lobbied decisionmakers and countered industry attempts to prevent industry capture. What explains the fact that rather weak and peripheral actors prevailed over more resourceful and dominant actors? The goal of this study is to examine and challenge questions of regulatory capture by concentrated industry interests in the reform debates in response to the credit crisis which originated in the US in 2007. The analysis suggests that for weak actors to prevail in policy conflicts over established, resource-rich opponents, they must undertake broad coalitionbuilding among themselves and with influential elite allies outside and inside of Congress who share the same policy goals.

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This paper aims to describe the social studies of credit developed in France over the past dozen years. We argue that this French sociology of credit, mostly centered on France, can be useful for researchers analyzing other countries, with other institutional particularities, because it proposes a specific method and a specific way to raise questions: credit is mostly understood as a result of social interactions embedded in organizational and legal structures. French researchers also deeply analyze the consequences of the organization of the credit market for inequalities, social stratification, and people’s life experiences. The first part of the paper focuses on works that have examined credit as a social test, looking at the institutional, technical, and social frameworks of money lending. Then, credit is understood as a sociological experiment: how is it integrated into household economies? How do people use forms of credit? Finally, the third part concentrates on credit failure, when a bank loan becomes a debt. This aspect is mostly framed in French sociology as “over-indebtedness,” which is an administrative and a social category. Throughout the paper, we address credit as both a relationship and a practice. This approach is heuristic, as we seek to demonstrate, because it enables us to show that credit is a social and political issue.

European integration of financial markets appears to repeatedly encounter specific kinds of problems about the substance and limits of the notion of “the market” undergoing integration, and about the status and role of money, market infrastructures, and government within it. Moreover, these problems and the controversies around them parallel classical discussions in economic theory such as that between conceptions of the market as a frictionless space and as a process of competition. A “competitive conception of the market” is identified as producing these parallel problems and controversies in European market integration and economic theory because it implies a contradictory “integration of fragmentation.” These themes and parallels can be specifically identified in a recent major project to integrate financial market infrastructures: a pan-European settlement platform – “Target2-Securities (T2S)” – to overcome existing fragmentation between the systems that perform the actual delivery of money and securities from financial transactions. Moreover, a close analysis of T2S answers a question that existing sociological and political economy approaches to European integration – focusing primarily on the interests and ideas of powerful players – struggle with: why T2S will become de facto a monopoly for the European Central Bank when early on in the integration process EU institutions emphasized an industry-led integration. Foucault’s notion of “discursive formation” is employed to conceptualize these arguments.

Publié en 2013-06
FOURCADE Marion
STEINER Philippe
STREECK Wolfgang
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Karl Marx observed long ago that all economic struggles invite moral struggles, or masquerade as such. The reverse may be true as well: deep moral-political conflicts may be waged through the manipulation of economic resources. Using the recent financial and Eurozone crises as empirical backgrounds, the four papers gathered here propose four different perspectives on the play of moral judgments in the economy, and call for broader and more systematic scholarly engagement with this issue. Focusing on executive compensation, bank bailouts, and the sovereign debt crisis, the symposium builds on a roundtable discussion held at the opening of the Max Planck Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies (MaxPo) in Paris on November 29, 2012.

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This paper examines the main political influence factors accounting for the variation in public debt accumulation on a global scale. This allows for a reassessment of the recent focus on a regime type theory of public debt and for a test of an alternative governance theory. I argue that political stability, the rule of law, the control of corruption, government effectiveness, and regulatory quality promote lower public debt accumulation by reducing the incentives for governments to “borrow from the future,” by increasing state capacity to collect taxes and effectively use public funds, and by providing more security and equity to private investment, inducing higher economic growth and tax revenues. Both theories are tested against a number of controls stemming from theories of public choice, theories of governmental distributional conflict, as well as from politico-institutional and macroeconomic explanations of public debt accumulation. Applying different specifications of quantitative models, the two governance indicators political stability and regulatory quality show consistent effects on public debt accumulation, partly confirming the proposed governance theory. Furthermore, the paper can reproduce a public debt-reducing effect of more democratic regime types across a number of model specifications – though without a high degree of robustness.

We study the influence of the corporate board network on executive pay for 3,395 US firms over the period from 1990 to 2015. Drawing on structural anthropology and social exchange theory, we identify three elementary structures through which the interlocking network captures an obvious form of objective reciprocity between executives from different firms: restricted exchange, when two executives sit on each other’s respective boards; delayed exchange, when y sits on the board of x after the end of x’s mandate on the board of y ; and generalized exchange, when x sits on the board of y, who sits on the board of z, who sits on the board of x. Our results suggest that these ties, although not very common, are more frequent than those calculated by chance. We also find that the three structures of reciprocity have a positive impact on executive pay, especially on bonuses and total cash. We use the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002) as a natural experiment to confirm our first findings. The impact on pay disappears after 2004, once these types of exchanges are constrained. Although linked to executive pay, these structures are not tied to any indicator of firm performance. This leads us to interpret them as a rent extraction phenomenon.

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In this paper, we study the impact of financialization on the rise in inequality in 18 OECD countries from 1970 to 2011 and measure the respective roles of various forms of financialization: the growth of the financial sector; the growth of one of its subcomponents, financial markets; the financialization of non-financial firms; and the financialization of households. We test these impacts using cross-country panel regressions in OECD countries. As dependent measures we use Solt’s (2009) Gini index, the World Top Incomes Database, and OECD inter-decile inequality measures. We show first that the share of the finance sector within the GDP is a substantial driver of world inequality, explaining between 20 and 40 percent of its increase from 1980 to 2007. When we decompose this financial sector effect, we find that this evolution was mainly driven by the increase in the volume of stocks traded in national stock exchanges and by the volume of shares held as assets in banks’ balance sheets. By contrast, the financialization of non-financial firms and of households does not play a substantial role. Based on this inequality test, we therefore interpret financialization as being mainly a phenomenon of marketization, redefined as the growing amount of social energy devoted to the trade of financial instruments on financial markets.

The effect of social capital is often overrated because contacts and centrality can be a consequence of success rather than its cause. Randomized or natural experiments are an excellent way to assess the real causal effect of social capital, but these are rare. This paper relies on data from one such experiment: recruitment at the EHESS, a leading social science institution in France, between 1960 and 2005. The EHESS recruitment process uses an electoral commission to produce a first-stage ranking of applicants, which is then provided to the faculty assembly for final voting. The commission is partly composed of faculty members drawn at random, a feature that this article exploits in order to compare the chances for success of applicants whose contacts have been drawn to sit on the commission (treated) versus those whose contacts have not been drawn (control). It shows that a contact such as a PhD advisor has a causal impact, especially for assistant professor hiring exams: it doubles the chance of being ranked and increases the share of votes by 10 percent. This phenomenon may explain part of the classic “academic inbreeding” issue.

Les supérieurs femmes promeuvent-elles une plus grande égalité salariale entre hommes et femmes ? Par ailleurs, même si elles voulaient promouvoir plus d’égalité, elles pourraient manquer de pouvoir,non seulement pour mettre en œuvre cette politique mais aussi pour améliorer les salaires de l’ensemble de leurs subordonnés hommes comme femmes. En nous fondant sur l’enquête SalSa et l’enquête COI, nous montrons que les supérieurs femmes semblent effectivement réduire le différentiel de salaire homme–femme. Cette position est toutefois associée à des salaires plus faibles pour leurs subordonnés. Cette situation peut être liée à des biais de sélection : les femmes deviendraient plus facilement des supérieures dans des secteurs, des métiers, des services moins valorisés, où les salaires sont plus faibles. Même en multipliant les contrôles des effets de sélection mesurables, les salariés qui ont un supérieur femme touchent 2,5 à 4 % de moins que ceux qui ont un supérieur homme. En revanche, même si le phénomène demande encore plus ample confirmation, cet écart en fonction du sexe du supérieur semble plus important lorsque le salarié est un homme (–5 à –10 %) que lorsqu'il est une femme (0 % à –3 %). Sous l’encadrement d’une femme, les écarts hommes–femmes seraient donc sensiblement réduits : de 30 % à 85 %. L’interprétation de ce phénomène n’en est encore qu’à ses débuts. Quatre pistes sont proposées : des différences observées entre les positions d’encadrement masculines et féminines, l’impact à position hiérarchique identique de caractéristiques individuelles corrélées au sexe du supérieur, la différence de disposition des hommes et des femmes vis-à-vis de la négociation et de la compétition, et enfin un comportement discriminatoire des entreprises à l’égard des demandes des femmes.

Publié en 2013
SALIBEKYAN Zinaida
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Although Hirschman’s exit–voice theoretical model has been applied to labor markets, research up to now has not tested one of its most important features: the impact of job quality on exit–voice strategies. Hirschman’s model of consumer behavior explains that those individuals unsatisfied with a product’s quality are more likely to “voice,” whereasthose more concerned with its price are more likely to “exit.” A rationale for this trade- off is based on information: first, information on the price of alternative options is much more accessible than information on quality; second, voice produces more information than exit and favors opportunities for specific improvements. We transpose Hirschman’s assumptions to labor markets and use the French SalSa survey and DADS, declaration by employers on social data, to examine the conditions under which French employees are more likely to exit, and the conditions under which they are more likely to voice. Our results support the Hirschmanian hypothesis. A deterioration by one unit in our working-conditions index increases the probability of participation in collective action by 5 percentage points. An increase in log hourly wage by one unit decreases the probability of quitting by 5 percentage points.