The global rise of neoliberalism since the 1970s is widely seen as a dynamic originating in the United States and the United Kingdom, and only belatedly and partially repeated by Germany. From this Anglocentric perspective, Germany's emergence at the forefront of neoliberal reforms in the eurozone is perplexing, and tends to be attributed to the same forces conventionally associated with the Anglo-American pioneers. This book challenges this ruling narrative conceptually and empirically. It recasts the genesis of neoliberalism as a process driven by a plenitude of actors, ideas, and interests. And it lays bare the pragmatic reasoning and counterintuitive choices of German crisis managers that are obscured by this master story.
Drawing on extensive original archival research, this book argues that German officials did not intentionally set out to promote neoliberal change. Instead they were more intent on preserving Germany's export markets and competitiveness in order to stabilize the domestic compact between capital and labor. Nevertheless, the series of measures German policy elites took to manage the end of golden-age capitalism promoted neoliberal transformation in crucial respects: it destabilized the Bretton Woods system; it undermined socialist and social democratic responses to the crisis in Europe; it frustrated an internationally coordinated Keynesian reflation of the world economy; and ultimately it helped push the US into the Volcker interest-rate shock that inaugurated the attack on welfare and labor under Reagan and Thatcher.
From this vantage point, the book illuminates the very different rationale behind the painful reforms German state managers have demanded of their indebted eurozone partners.