Research Paper Topic

Please answer one of the following two questions. Depending on how you choose to explore the topic, you may need to consult a few sources beyond the reading, but essentially you can rely the materials already presented in the seminar.

  1. In much of the literature the distinctive characteristics of "coordinated capitalism" or German-Japanese style capitalism are presented as strengths in international competition and above all as virtues in reinforcing social solidarity at home by emphasizing the value of maintaining relatively narrow income inequalities, lower unemployment, enhancing human resources in production and giving priority to long-time horizons in firm strategy. The weaknesses of these systems are less discussed, yet some areas do emerge as troubling, for example, the exclusion from the workforce of some parts of the population (low female workforce participation) and the apparent weaknesses in innovation and new firm creation. Evaluate the "downside" of coordinated capitalism by considering in some detail one of these areas. You may focus your essay on one country and one area--but be sure to situate it with respect to the general issues at stake.
  2. Does deregulation really reduce the role of the state in the economy? Evaluate this issue with respect to the specific experiences of European states in the area of industrial policy, or privatization, or competition policy. You may focus your essay on one country, but be certain to explain the general implications of your findings.

The essay is due at the last class. It should be about 15-20 pages.

Short Paper Topics

Essay 1

Did politics matter for rapid economic growth in West Europe after World War II? Or can standard economic explanations of growth provide an adequate understanding of the acceleration of economic growth in West Europe during the first thirty years after the war and subsequently of slow-down in growth from the seventies through the nineties?

In your essay, evaluate alternative understandings of how politics and the state might have contributed to growth (i.e., explanations focussed on the role of institutions, ideas, the personnel of the state, parties, and forth.) Develop your arguments with reference to the experiences of at least two European societies.

The essay should be about 15 pages, doublespaced; it is due at the beginning of class #8. Please complete the reading through class #7 before writing the paper.

Essay 2

Many Europeans of all political persuasions argue today that they wish to avoid the "American model" of society. Though the "American model" is variously characterized in these arguments, the common core notion is of a society whose structures and regulations have allowed a widening of inequalities of resources and power and a continuing exclusion of a large segment of the population from the network of social welfare provision. Why Europeans feel their societies might move in such a direction may have to do with globalization, with the role of the United States in the international system, and other factors. Your paper may start from any assumptions you find reasonable about the sources of the pressures and dangers that trigger European alarm.

Please focus your essay, however, on laying out the kinds of politics, policies and institutions, at the regional, national or European levels, that might work to sustain different distributional outcomes--and different social models--in European countries than in the United States. What evidence do we have from the experiences of the past decade that there are real alternatives for adapting and responding to the pressures generated by international competition, new technologies, and capital mobility? Consider the evidence from at least two countries. If you believe convergence on the American model is inevitable, please explain that as well.

The essay should be 12-15 pages. It is due at the start of class #12.