Working Paper 3/2021

Ryner, M.

(2021). Is European Monetary Integration Structurally Neoliberal? The Case of the 1977-78 Locomotive Conflict. Helsinki Centre for Global Political Economy Working Paper, 03/2021.

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Disillusionment over the possibility to reform economic governance of the European Union has lent increased credence to the contention that European monetary integration is inherently neoliberal in its structure. However, it is very difficult to disentangle structure from the cumulative effect of agency. The formation of the precursor to the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) – the European Monetary System (EMS) – in the wake of the 1977-78 Locomotive Conflict does, however, lend itself to an analysis that allows for the disentangling of the structural and agential. This is because it is located at the ‘formative moment’ or ‘branching point’ between the ‘embedded liberal’ Fordist and neoliberal eras. Using the concepts of construal, variation, selection and construction as developed by Jessop (2010), this paper analyses this case to test whether European monetary integration is inherently neoliberal. The variation of construals on possible European Monetary Systems is not compatible with a hard structuralism. A soft structuralism fares better but is thrown into doubt by the politics of selection.

Keywords: European Monetary Integration; European Monetary System; Economic and Monetary Union; Eurozone; neoliberalism; structuralism; Locomotive Conflict