The Fiscal Crisis of the Democratic State in Europe
The European response to the financial cum fiscal crisis in the Eurozone is leading to a democratic crisis of the state. It has exposed a tension between the national and the supranational in a multi-level polity whilst opening up new political cleavages between the core and periphery of Europe. This dilemma has become particularly acute for program countries that are either directly or indirectly in receipt of non-market financial funding from the Troika. In the absence of exchange rate adjustments, Ireland and Southern European countries must pursue an internal devaluation that shifts the entire burden of adjustment on to fiscal and labor market policy. National governments, regardless of political partisanship, are required to comply with external EMU mandates and liberalize their welfare state, cut public spending and impose market conforming structural reforms. The core argument of this paper is that imposing a one size-fits-all neoliberal solution to diverse economic problems across different varieties of capitalism is the real source of the Eurozone crisis. Using a cross-country comparative analysis of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain I conclude that this is an outcome of inbuilt institutional and macroeconomic asymmetries in the EMU. But it is leading to unprecedented electoral volatility and a legitimation crisis of the democratic state in Southern Europe.