Over the past century, economic policy orders – rooted in ideas that shape interests – have spanned the Progressive, Keynesian, and Neoliberal eras, marked by periods of prolonged growth and stability. Yet, over time, these orders have each been destabilized in crises spanning the Great Depression, Great Stagflation, and Global Financial Crisis. While scholars have often stressed the role of ideas as a source of stability, I argue that ideas can also cause instability and crisis. Combining constructivist and institutionalist insights, I offer a model of economic ideas in political time, positing that policy orders evolve over stages marked by their construction, conversion, and collapse in crises. In this talk, I specifically address the Reagan-era construction of the Neoliberal order, its Clinton/Greenspan era intellectual conversion, the onset of crisis over the Bush/Bernanke years, and the ironic contributions of the Obama administration to a Trump-era New Nationalism.
Wesley Widmaier is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. His research addresses the historical development of the international political economy, as ideas, institutions and interests have been reshaped across moments of stability, crisis and change. He has engaged these concerns across a range of publications, most recently in Economic Ideas in Political Time: The Rise and Fall of Economic Orders from the Progressive Era to the Global Financial Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2016). His research also addresses the role of wars and crises as mechanisms of foreign policy change, most recently in Presidential Rhetoric from Wilson to Obama: Constructing Crises, Fast and Slow (Routledge, 2015). More broadly, his work has appeared in such journals as Review of Political International Economy, International Studies Quarterly, Review of International Studies, Australian Journal of Political Science, Political Studies, Millennium, and European Journal of International Relations. Professor Widmaier is a past Chair of the International Political Economy section of the International Studies Association and currently serves as lead editor of the journal Review of International Political Economy.