In this book I have tried to present two interrelated arguments: First, contrary to the convergence theses that were so popular only a few years ago, advanced capitalist welfare states are not locked into a “race to the bottom.” Instead, different countries are moving in quite different directions, even as we move into an increasingly interdependent and globalized world. Second, history can be understood as an evolutionary process. The simple reason that different countries are moving in different directions is that they are in fact quite different systems adapting in an evolving environment.
In the following pages I will treat each of these arguments separately. First, we will explore the policy implications of the three narratives presented in this book. We will then explore in greater depth my argument that history is an evolutionary process.
THE END OF NEO-LIBERALISM?
In the early years of the twenty-first century, America and its particular form of neo-liberal economics, was ascendant. Communism was dead and American economic growth outpaced virtually all other industrial countries. The only countries that seem to be doing better were countries like Ireland, which had adopted even more radical forms of neo-liberalism than America. The “Washington Consensus” had taken over all the major international financial institutions in the world and conservative or center-right governments were winning elections around the globe.