Neoliberalism in Translation: Economic Ideas and Reforms in Spain and Romania

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2011

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Most political economists studying the global spread of neoliberalism have seen it as a form of policy diffusion. Recently constructivist political economists have pointed to the important role of the spread of neoliberal economic ideas in this process. However, they have not provided a theoretical framework for understanding the mechanisms through which neoliberal ideas travel across national policy spheres.

To address this gap, this dissertation draws on the claim made by some sociologists that ideas do not stay the same as they travel from one social setting to another, but are "translated" by idea entrepreneurs called "translators". More specifically, this dissertation aims to specify what shapes the result of translation, the pace at which it occurs, and the means through which it can shape policy. In doing this, it makes three contributions to the study of political economy. First, it argues that the content of adopted neoliberal ideas is shaped by the context-specific choices made by translators who employ "framing," "grafting" and "editing" as translation devices. Secondly, the pace of translation is shaped by the density of transnational ties between domestic policy stakeholders and external advocates of neoliberalism. Finally, translated neoliberal ideas are likely to serve as templates for economic policies when they are shared by an intellectually coherent policy team inside a cabinet that can effectively control economic policy decisions.

To make thesearguments, the dissertation draws on a comparative historical analysis of the spread of neoliberalism in two "crucial cases": postauthoritarian Spain and Romania.

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