About ten years after the financial and economic crisis hit Europe, the annual meeting of the DVPW’s (Germany’s Political Science Association) section on Political Economy now dealt with the outcomes and aftershocks of the most severe crisis since WWII. Held at the “Schader-Forum” in Darmstadt from the 22nd to 23rd of February 2018, we (Georg Wenzelburger and Helge Staff) had the chance to participate in the lively discussions, presentations, and roundtables.
Our own contribution focused on one of the professorship’s current research areas: the interrelation between the policy areas of social and penal policy (see, also Georg Wenzelburger’s recent Inaugural Lecture). Taking the crisis as a unique policy setting we asked, whether the crisis in Europe reinforced a policy compensation effect between welfare and law & order or whether both policy sectors have developed in parallel due to fiscal constraints. We basically developed two competing hypotheses from the literature: The first – based on comparative criminology – suggests that the crisis reinforced a compensation effects between the policy sectors. Whereas the welfare state gets cut amidst the crisis, the state’s potency and punitivity in issues of law & order is increased.
The second hypothesis understands the crisis as an event which severly constraints all public budgets and therefore leads to a parallel retrenchment of both welfare and penal policy. Thus, the paper essentially is a much more mature and significantly enhanced version of the study I presented in November at the workshop “Policy-Making in Hard Times” in Barcelona.
The results of our quantitative and qualitative analyses using different measurements of the two policy areas were not completely harmonious but supported the compensation-effect-hypothesis more so than a fiscal-constraint-hypothesis during the crisis. This preliminary result – to be refined by further testing – related well to the conference’s many discussions on the mid- to long-term effects of the recent economic and financial crisis.