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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Post Celtic Tiger errata

Have just read Showcasing Globalisation?: The Political Economy of the Irish Republic by Nicola Jo-Anne Smith on my way down on the train from Belfast to Dublin. Its a good source of empirical data and debates about the Irish economy in terms of whether it really is 'globalised' or merely 'internationalised' and actually concentrated in terms of trade to a couple of countries - US and the UK in particular. Its also a rather infuriating read - lots of 'on the one hand...but on the other...' and frustratingly fails to come down with any analtyically insightful or normatively interesting positions. It contests that Ireland is a 'competition state' (Irish-style) as maintained by critics of the neo-liberal CT model such as Peadar Kirby or Denis O'Hearn yet does not outline what a 'competition state' is and how it differs from a 'welfare' or 'developmental' one. It also offers the most torturous account of the persistence of inequality in Ireland but maintaining this is not a major issue given the rise in absolute wages for most and the provision of a (bare and increasinly thread-bare) social safety net. But perhaps most frustrating of al, and which to my mind, really undermines the book's contribution, is there is no discussion of the dynamics of globalised capitalism or indeed the character of irish capitalism. It is as if one can blightly discuss 'globalisation' without mentioning capitalism!
Nevertheless, despite my criticisms, it is a good start to the debate about the CT and more importnant the post-CT siotuaiton, not least in Smith's argument that both the 'Whittaker moment' in the 1950s (which heralded the end of DeValera-style protectionism) and the social partnership model of the late 1980s ( of the commonly held features which explains the CT 'take off') were borne out of crisis. Where is our 'green Whittaker now' and is there a green version of social partnerhsip and the need to use and respond to the current economic (and growing political) crisis by restructuring the state, economy and civil society in Ireland?

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