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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Juncture 23.2: Autumn 2016


While the last issue of Juncture focused on the immediate shock of Brexit, this edition explores the long-term trends exposed by the UK’s dramatic decision to leave the UK and those likely to be set in train by the consequences of doing so.

Read more: Editorial: After the interregnum

Professor Helen Thompson traces the long pre-history of the Brexit vote. Her analysis roots the result in the UK’s contradictory position within the EU: standing outside the monetary union that is so central to the European project’s economic and political credibility, yet acting as the offshore financial centre and employer of last resort of the bloc. Ultimately that contradiction proved irresolvable.

Meanwhile, sociologist Colin Crouch argues that the political battle between economic visions that has defined modern politics may now have been overtaken by cultural considerations. The Brexit vote and the confluence of immigration and globalisation have brought the divide between liberalism and authoritarianism to the fore. What will this mean for our more traditional political parties, who are already in danger of fracturing under their own internal contradictions?

The referendum has exposed not only party political divisions, but deep demographic divides within our society. While much has been made of the class split in the vote, geography and – crucially – age made a great deal of difference to how people voted too. Many participated in the referendum who had not voted previously or recently – both white working-class Leave voters and young Remainers. Professor Sarah Birch argues that if this participation continues it may yet revitalise our politics, though it is far from clear who will benefit.

In this issue’s cover story, leading political economist Wolfgang Streeck argues that capitalism is dying a death from a thousand cuts, without any alternative social order waiting in the wings to replace it. This will lead to a prolonged period of social entropy, economic stagnation, radical uncertainty and indeterminacy. However, a more hopeful note is struck by fund manager Toby Nangle, who argues that global demographic trends, intersecting with monetary policy shifts, offer a lifeline: the historic glut of global labour will be reversed in the 2020s, providing a momentary tailwind to labour power, accelerating economic convergence and constraining rising inequality.

We also turn our attention to the race for the White House, which may soon become home to another President Clinton. In the 1990s, Bill championed ‘third way’ politics during years of political stability and economic growth. If elected, Hillary will face quite different circumstances, with growth, employment and productivity rates lower than in the 1990s, and demands for justice and fairness are far louder. Heather Boushey, executive director of the Center for Equitable Growth, sets out the key economic policy objectives and policy instruments on which Clinton is campaigning.