While the state continues to play a prominent role in the literature on developing countries, its absence in the work on advanced, industrialized societies is equally conspicuous. This article examines what happens to developmental states as they mature by analyzing the evolution of two, similar, statist societies, France and Finland. In contrast to recent literature on state-led or state-enhanced capitalism, we identify two responses to contemporary challenges. The French “marketizing state” used a combination of coercion and compensation to increase market competition, whereas the Finnish “investment state” targeted productivity-enhancing collective goods. We attribute these divergent responses to the structure of the postwar developmental state. Co-authored with Darius Ornston. Journal of Comparative Politics, 49, no. 1 (October 2016), pp. 1-21.
Prime Minister David Cameron's ambivalence about Britain's role in the European Union stems from dilemmas within his Conservative Party. Since the nineteenth century, British Conservatism had represented a comfortable synthesis of a soft Burkean traditionalism and class-based paternalism with an effort to expand the party's appeal to the working class. Thatcher's aggressive neoliberal challenge to this tradition never truly displaced the older paternalistic sense of noblesse oblige or the preference for societal consensus and incremental change. Instead, the two elements came into an uneasy coexistence that has informed Tory ambivalence about the EU. This article argues that Cameron's gradual distancing of Britain from the EU has paralleled his championing of economic austerity at home. It argues further that Cameron's policy-making response to the post-2007 economic downturn and European debt crisis can best be understood as a reflection of unresolved tensions within British Conservative thought. Article in “Interpreting British European Policy,” Journal of Common Market Studies 53, no. 1 (January 2015) (special issue), pp. 106-22.
This article argues that distinctive liberal traditions shaped France and Germany’s Keynesian policy responses to the post-2007 economic crisis. In France, “statist liberalism” privileges an activist state that favors macro-economic intervention and investment. German “corporate liberalism,” by contrast, is more pluralist and emphasizes the powers and responsibilities of social and economic groups, who are viewed as the fundamental components of the social order. The article argues that these traditions shaped elite interpretations of the crisis and played central roles in defining policy trajectories. They informed a modest French response focused on macroeconomic stimulus that relied on existing income support and a larger German effort centered on a micro-economic strategy of group subsidization. It concludes that these outcomes are inconsistent with traditional institutional accounts and highlights the importance of research on the role of ideas in shaping national responses to economic crises. In Governance 27, no. 1 (January 2014), pp. 63-85.
Vail also authored a chapter in The Future of the Euro titled “Europe’s Middle Child: France’s Statist Liberalism and the Conflicted Politics of the Euro.” (ed. Mark Blyth and Matthias Matthijs, pp. 136-60. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.)