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State, Risk and Society (STARS)

The financial crisis has created and revealed economic vulnerabilities of modern societies, which industrialised countries had assumed that they had overcome a long time ago. It brought back parallels to the Great Depression in Europe and North America. The gravity of the effects of the financial crisis contrast strikingly with the limited attempts at analysing the causes and dynamics and at learning lessons from it. The project focuses on understanding changes in the relationship between the state, society and the financial sector to gain a broader understanding of the causes and consequences of the global financial crisis of 2007/2008. It analyses these relationships from the perspective of different roles of the state in relation to the financial sector and how each of these relationships – regulator, service provider, owner, and democratic agent – are shaped by perceptions of risk associated with financial markets or – conversely – how risk perceptions are shaped by those relationships. To this end, the project takes a long-term view stretching back about two decades before the beginning of the financial crisis of 2007/2008.

The adjustment of national policies, regulation, and banking systems to global finance is the lens through which we propose to further our understanding of the causes and effects of the financial crises. National policies and politics in advanced democracies have to mediate between the demands of their electorates as well as the realities of global markets. In this process, we argue that specific policies (pensions, public banks, regulation,

reform policies) play a crucial role for the workings of financial markets. This common theme is examined in four subprojects. The role of the state as regulator of financial markets is addressed in the subproject on “Public Images of Financial Market Regulation.” It analyses regulatory responses to public discourses about financial market failure and enforcement deficits of regulatory authorities. The role of the state as service provider for old-age pensions and its repercussions on financial markets is studied in the subproject “Pension Reforms and the Financial Crisis”. We explore the role of the state as bank owner in the subproject “Public Finance through Public Banks: The Contribution of the Publicly Owned Banks in Creating and Resolving Financial Crises”. In the European Union, the state owns and manages a significant portion of financial assets. The subproject examines how public ownership affects the risk of financial crisis and circumscribes crisis management strategies. Finally, the subproject “Who reforms? Electoral Competitiveness, Crisis and Economic Adjustment” focuses on the state as a democratic agent and studies the constraints of electoral rules for reform outcomes.

Project findings will be disseminated at joint academic workshops and conferences and in scholarly publications, including peer-reviewed journals and book publications. We will also draw on the Hertie School’s network and experience to disseminate finding towards policymakers and the wider public. We plan to organise a project conference in Brussels to engage the EU policymaking community.

The project will be coordinated by Anke Hassel together with Gerhard Hammerschmid, Mark Hallerberg, Mark Kayser, Kai Wegrich and Tobias Bach.