National liberalisms in a neoliberal age: ideas and economic adjustment in contemporary France and Germany

  • Mark I. VailEmail author
Original Article


In contrast to prevailing claims of neoliberal hegemony, this article argues that French and German trajectories of adjustment have diverged from standard neoliberal recipes in important ways. France has accompanied liberalization with macroeconomically oriented measures designed to bolster aggregate demand, while Germany has imposed the burden of reform on outsiders while shielding insiders from the costs of adjustment. This article argues that differences in French and German policy trajectories are informed by distinctive national liberalisms—‘statist liberalism’ in the French case and ‘corporate liberalism’ in Germany—that entail divergent models of state intervention, social organization, and political accountability, while rejecting standard neoliberal prescriptions. It develops these claims through an analysis of French and German labour-market reforms in the 1990s and 2000s and policy responses to the post-2007 crisis. It argues that a focus on the political power of ideas is crucial for understanding broad national adjustment strategies across institutional, policy, and partisan contexts.


Fiscal policy Labour-market policy France Germany Liberalism Liberalization 



The author wishes to thank Robert Adcock, Mark Blyth, Robert Fannion, Wade Jacoby, Naomi Levy, Tobias Schulze-Cleven, and the participants at the “Future of Work” Conference at Rutgers University in March 2016 for helpful comments on portions of this article; the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford for institutional support during a sabbatical during which portions of this material were conceptualized; and two anonymous reviewers at Comparative European Politics for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science, Murphy Institute of Political EconomyTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

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