Refiguring Capitalism in a Stateless Nation

Authors: Max Cohen*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Economic Geography, Political Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: Nationalism, Capitalism, Scotland, Green, Finance
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 23
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Speaking in January 2020 at the ‘Wellbeing Economy Alliance’ conference, the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon contended that Scotland is ‘redefining’ what it means to be a successful nation. Since 2017, the Scottish Government has been undertaking a number of international initiatives and developing new policy models as part of their economic strategy to tackle ‘inequality as economic competitiveness’. These policy initiatives include the development of a Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB), incorporating social and environmental indicators into metrics of economic success and establishing Well Being Policy Labs. The SNIB has been tasked with a ‘mission-led strategy’ to ‘do things differently’ by investing with patient and growth-oriented finance. This marks a shift from the short-termism and risk-aversion which has largely prevented the private sector from investing in environmentally sustainable and socially oriented businesses in Scotland. These new institutional configurations are intended to grow Scotland's green economy and support a 'just transition'.

This paper traces these political and economic institutional reconfigurations to situate capitalism within a 'stateless nation' (Keating, 1997). Scottish finance played a central role in the evolution of capitalism from the Industrial Revolution to the era of neoliberalism and the great crash. Today its banking sector is criticised for its increasingly rentier-like qualities due to its monopolistic and parasitic activities in connection with the City of London (Wray, 2020). My paper evaluates the attempts by the Scottish government to redefine national economic success and questions whether its institutional initiatives are more an exercise in rebranding than redefinition.

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