2012 OECD history sessions|ESSHC Glasgow

under construction

documents related to the research sessions held in April 2012 at the European Social Science Conference in Glasgow

Papers presented

Introduction to the sessions (slides)


The OECD and the “crisis” of Keynesianism: the McCracken Report, 1975-1980  (slides)
Dr. Vincent Gayon, Sociology Department, University Paris-Dauphine, France

This contribution analyzes one of the OECD’s «neo-liberal turning points» during the second half of the 1970s: the McCracken Report (OECD 1977). This report, which had been commissioned by the U.S. State Department between the two oil crises, crystallized the OECD’s experts standpoint on the economic situation. At a time when the effectiveness of Keynesian economic policy recipes seemed in disarray, this report challenged the routinized macroeconomic and political prescriptions held at the OECD. Our inquiry is based on archives and on retrospective interviews. It focuses on the elaboration and writing of this emblematic report by a collective formed of the direction of the OECD as well as external experts. I show how, during the elaboration of the report, economic policy recipes labeled as Keynesian, were discredited and replaced by other forms of economics knowledge and how this evolution of expertise inside the OECD was defined as both an «innovation» and an intellectual «necessity». I also emphasize the rationalizing role played by economic knowledge in the interpretation of the crisis of the 1970s and underscore the struggles that emerged within the OECD’s bureaucracy regarding the explanation of this epistemic «innovation». This paper retraces not only conflicts between the different services of the organization, but also the intervention of member countries representatives in the elaboration of the report, as well as the transformation of North American economics. A study of McCracken report gives us a better understanding of how the OECD contributed to the «Washington consensus», a policy consensus which has until now mainly been studied in the context of the IMF and the World Bank. Literature mentioned: McCracken Paul, et al., Towards Full Employment and Price Stability, Paris, OECD, 1977

The OECD roadmap for global finance, 1962-1985
Floriane Galeazzi, PhD candidate, University of Rouen, France (slides)

This contribution analyzes the role of the working party on monetary questions (better known as WP3) of the OECD Economic Policy Committee in the liberalization and the regulation of capital markets between 1962 and 1985. It is based on sources drawn from the OECD archives and on retrospective interviews conducted with OECD administrators, as well as with civil servants from the Banque de France and the French Ministry of Economics and Finance. During the crucial period that led to the re-emergence of international capital markets, the WP3 became the place where new ideas about the role of capital markets regulation were shaped by a transnational community of experts. In other words, the WP3 acted as a forum where the diverse experience of national actors and institutions were confronted to each other, exposed to new conceptions of monetary theory, and finally recombined into a new consensus that advocated the liberalization of international capital markets. In this context, I use the French case to underscore how national conceptions were reconfigured by discussions in transnational forums such as the OECD. I also show how the OECD Secretariat carefully orchestrated and steered WP3 discussions in order to facilitate the reshaping of the national conceptions. A closer look at the WP3 highlights how the OECD laid the groundwork and provided a roadmap for contemporary financial globalization.

First come, first served? The struggle for a code of conduct for multinational enterprises and the OECD Guidelines during the 1970s
Thomas Hajduk, PhD candidate, Viadrina European University Frankfurt (Oder), Germany (slides)

Whereas today talk about corporate social responsibility is common among global policy makers and international business leaders, it was still unknown and highly contested territory when it first appeared on the international agenda during the 1970s. In those years of economic crisis, the public opinion about multinational enterprises (MNEs) sharply deteriorated due to corporate scandals, outsourcing and mass layoffs. The OECD was one of several international organizations to react to these held criticism and published its OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises in 1976. The Guidelines are one of several codes of conduct that were created at that time in order to promote (self-)control of MNEs. Remarkably, the OECD outran rivals such as the ILO, the UN and the EEC in creating such norms for international business. In my paper I will focus on the question of how the OECD liberal interpretation of corporate social responsibility compared to other contemporary codes and whether the OECD actually set the corporate social responsibility agenda. The paper draws on my ongoing PhD project about MNEs and international codes of conduct.

The embattled standard-bearer of social insurance and its challenger : the ILO, the OECD, and the «crisis of the welfare state», 1975-1985
Dr. Matthieu Leimgruber, Paul Bairoch Institute of Economic History, University of Geneva, Switzerland (slides)

This paper explores how the ILO and OECD responded to the emergence of the «crisis of the welfare state» during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I analyze in particular the work of a task force convened in 1980 by ILO Secretary General Francis Blanchard to prepare a report defending the development of social security and its positive impact on industrialized societies. Entitled Into the 21st Century, this report (published in 1984) constituted an ILO riposte against mounting conservative and neo-liberal critiques that accused growing social expenditures of exacerbating the impact of the 1970s recession. In contrast, the OECD Conference on «the welfare state in crisis» convened in Paris in October 1980 contributed to give legitimacy to these critiques. Drawing on original materials drawn from both ILO and OECD archives, this paper analyzes the background and context of these antagonistic positions. It also highlights how the ILO, the standard-bearer of postwar social security expansion, found itself wrong-footed by the determinate entry of the OECD on this policy field from 1975 onwards. This paper offers new perspectives to understand the contrasted trajectories of the ILO and OECD at a crucial crossroad of social policy development.

A ‘temple of growth’ in crisis? The production of economic and environmental policy norms within the OECD during the 1970s
Matthias Schmelzer, PhD candidate, Viadrina European University Frankfurt (Oder), Germany (slides) 

This paper offers a source-based historical account of the production of environmental and growth-related policy norms within the OECD during the 1970s. Although growth has been the leading paradigm within this little studied international organisation since its foundation in 1971, a high-level debate was launched within the OECD in 1969 to address the so-called «problems of modern society» caused by too rapid growth leading to environmental destruction and social disintegration. After the OECD economies had overtaken the goal set at the first Ministerial conference in 1961 – namely to raise their combined GDP by 50 per cent within one decade – economic experts started to think about the social and environmental costs of growth. These debates involved Ministers and top-level public servants from all member countries, OECD administrators as well as prominent members of the Club of Rome. In the context of monetary problems, the energy crisis and stagflation, these debates contributed to recast the old quantitative growth paradigm in terms of environmental policies and qualitative growth, thus laying the foundations for the recent emphasis on green growth and sustainable capitalism. The paper will provide both an analysis of expert-communities within the OECD – the industrialised nation’s think tank and norm entrepreneur – and an account of the evolution of economic  and environmental policy norms in the 1970s.