Article 14 of 20 – “From Receding to Reseeding: Industrial Policy, Governance Strategies and Neoliberal Resilience in Post-crisis Britain”

Every so often you come across an article that is the bomb. It asks questions you didn’t even know you were asking (but you were) and is so obviously shot through with a deep understanding of debates that you barely know the names of. It casually refers to “obvious” distinctions that you would have blundered on for months/years not understanding, at your own cost. And, if you’re really lucky, it has word play/puns.

Such an article is this-

Berry C. (2020) From Receding to Reseeding: Industrial Policy, Governance Strategies and Neoliberal Resilience in Post-crisis Britain, New Political Economy, 25:4, 607-625, DOI: 10.1080/13563467.2019.1625316 

The abstract tells you a lot.

See also this summation –

The article discusses British industrial policy development across three of the main domains through which an industrial policy agenda may be enacted: support for particular firms or industries, new industrial policy powers for local and regional authorities, and support for R&D. The nature of policies within the first domain denote the extent to which policy-makers rely upon the economy’s incumbent firms, and their business models, to deliver strategic objectives. Approaches within the second domain will denote prevailing ideas about the appropriate scope for state intervention at various scales. And interventions chosen within the third domain denote understandings of how state and market should interact across different stages of capitalist innovation. Each of these domains were prominent within the May government’s industrial strategy, as well as, to a variable extent, having featured in industrial policy development in Britain since 2008. Focusing on these domains also enables the article to demonstrate the abiding influence of HM Treasury on all facets of economic policy, notwithstanding the establishment of BEIS.

(Berry, 2020: 608)

I could quote slabs and slabs. I won’t, because you should, if you have any interest in how the UK is governed, in how industrial policy “works”, in how research is funded, by who, for who etc.

A renewed interest among policy-makers in industrial policy has been evident since the financial crisis of 2008. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government formed in 2010 also ostensibly pursued a more expansive industrial policy agenda. However, it was the ascent of Theresa May to the premiership in 2016 after the Brexit referendum (initially inheriting the small parliamentary majority the Conservatives had won in 2015, before leading a minority government after the 2017 ‘snap’ election) that gave most impetus to the development of an ‘industrial strategy’. (Berry, 2020: 607)


The distinction between the horizontal and vertical industrial policy is often employed, with the former focused on supporting the private sector as a whole, and the latter on particular industries or firms. A horizontal approach has tended to prevail in the UK, although a vertical or ‘targeted’ approach focused on capital-intense manufacturing industries, which drive productivity improvements and are integral to domestic export bases (see Chang 2009), tends to characterise industrial policy in most countries. (Berry, 2020: 607-8)


The Treasury’s Productivity Agenda

It is a highly revealing oddity of British economic statecraft that while the Whitehall department which oversees business generally ‘owns’ industrial policy (now more than ever, given the creation of BEIS), the Treasury actually retains ownership of productivity policy. As such, a commitment to horizontalism remains evident in parts of the May government’s agenda. Furthermore, the Treasury has actually sought to adopt the notion of industrial strategy to facilitate this objective.

Crucially, despite the creation of BEIS and the publication of its industrial strategy white paper, the Treasury’s ‘productivity plan’ remains in force. The Treasury’s departmental plan includes productivity as a central responsibility, noting horizontal issues such as improving infrastructure and the business environment as key concerns, alongside supporting high growth firms (citing both the BEIS white paper and its own, earlier 2017 budget in this regard (HM Treasury 2018b)). The productivity plan (published as Fixing the Foundations under then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in 2015) had explicitly replaced the previous ‘plan for growth’ jointly owned by Osborne and Vince (Berry, 2020: 613-4)

This is an article I will have to return to, as my understanding deepens. And I am going to have to read all of the following…


Ban, C., 2016. Ruling ideas: how global neoliberalism goes local. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Berry, C., 2016b. Industrial policy change in the post-crisis British economy: policy innovation in an incomplete institutional and ideational environment. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 18(4), 829–47.

Berry, C., 2018a. “D is for Dangerous”: devolution and the ongoing decline of manufacturing in Northern England. In: C. Berry and A. Giovannini, eds. Developing England’s North: the political economy of the Northern Powerhouse. London: Palgrave, 85–120.

Berry, C., ed., 2018b. What we really mean when we talk about industrial strategy. British Academy and Manchester Metropolitan University Press. Available from:

Carstensen, M.B. and Matthijs, M., 2018. Of paradigms and power: British economic policy making since Thatcher. Governance, 31, 431–47.

Craig, M., 2018. Treasury control and the British environmental state: the political economy of green development strategy in UK central government. New Political Economy, doi:10.1080/13563467.2018.1526269.

Gooberman, L., Hauptmeier, M. and Heery, E., 2018. Contemporary employer interest representation in the United Kingdom. Work, Employment and Society, 32(1), 114–32.

Lee, S., 2018. Law, legislation and rent-seeking: the role of the Treasury-led developmental state in the competitive advantage of the Southern Powerhouse. In: C. Berry and A. Giovannini, eds. Developing England’s North: the political economy of the Northern Powerhouse. London: Palgrave, 59–83.

In the edited volume “What we really mean when we talk about industrial policy”

20Clean and lean: an industrial strategy for an era of globalisation and climate change DUSTIN BENTON  
21How sustainable is the sustainability element in the new industrial strategy? The difficult case of the car industry DAN COFFEY AND CAROLE THORNLEY  
22Green industrial policy in the UK: river basin planning and the limits of transparent appraisal MARTIN P.A. CRAIG

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