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The substitutive state? Neoliberal state interventionism across industrial, housing and private pensions policy in the UK

Berry, Craig ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8035-1155 (2022) The substitutive state? Neoliberal state interventionism across industrial, housing and private pensions policy in the UK. Competition and Change: the journal of global political economy, 26 (2). pp. 242-265. ISSN 1024-5294

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Abstract

This article advances the notion of ‘the substitutive state’ to explore the changing character of state institutions and state action in the context of neoliberalization. This understanding is contrasted with alternative accounts of state neoliberalization such as ‘the regulatory state’ and ‘the competition state’. It focuses upon the UK, and three domains of economic statecraft in particular: industrial policy (primarily the May government’s 2017 industrial strategy), housing policy (primarily extensive support for mortgage lending and borrowing since the 2008 financial crisis) and private pensions policy (primarily the establishment of state-owned pension scheme providers in the context of ‘automatic enrolment’ regulations). The article argues that state action in the UK increasingly encompasses new mechanisms for intervention in the private economy. However, associated policy practices are rarely strategic or purposeful. Interventionist mechanisms are often populated by the private economic actors implicated in the problem intervention is designed to solve, or are used to relieve the private sector from serving unprofitable market segments. Substitutive statism is aligned with a wider accumulation regime which state actors perceive as immutable; they are therefore willing to intervene to sustain this regime, irrespective of market signals. In short, state institutions have a more expansive interventionist footprint, but are doing less with more. In contrast to accounts of ‘the neoliberal state’, we should not assume that these institutions add up to ‘the state’, albeit a state with neoliberal characteristics. State action has always been a central, organizing element of neoliberalism, although its form has evolved as neoliberal ideas confront capitalist accumulation in practice.

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