Professor Waltraud Schelkle specialises in the political economy of monetary integration, understood as a form of inter-state risk sharing as well as in welfare state reforms. As Joint Chair she aims to organise seminars on how policy analysis is used for understanding deeply political questions. She will also teach courses on qualitative research methods, institutional analysis, and comparative political economy.
In this interview, she discussed her background, expectations, and educational goals while at the EUI.
What is your background and how did you become an expert on the topic?
I’m an economist by training and worked on India’s development policy of financial repression and then on the theory of monetary integration. Like all Keynesian economists, I am convinced that, for better or worse, money is not merely a veil over the ‘real’ economy, not even in the long run. I also think that it was for a reason that the modern welfare state was invented in the Great Depression, when macro-stabilisation started. In my book, published in 2017, on the Political Economy of Monetary Solidarity I brought this together. Notably, I analyse a monetary union as a risk pool in which diversity is an advantage for mutual insurance. I also analyse the collective action problems that make it difficult to realise these potential insurance gains. This is in stark contrast to most scholars who analyse the Euro area and see its ‘heterogeneity’ as its major problem.
As Joint Chair, what will your role entail? Which areas of work will you be focusing on? What courses will you be teaching?
My role as Joint Chair is still developing but I hope to play an active role in the Robert Schuman Centre. One idea is to organise a seminar series, in which policy analysis is used for understanding deeply political questions: in my view, the world is not short of policy ideas. We are short of ideas how policies can be made fathomable to citizens and political debate on policies afford the time it takes to come to compromises; 15 years of crisis politics have not been conducive to either. So, I would like to focus less on policy recommendations from academics and more on the analysis of political arenas and institutions that allow to scrutinise them, even under pressure. With Ellen Immergut, I will convene a course on ‘The Foundations of Institutional Political Analysis’ in the first term and in the second term, I’ll teach a course on ‘European Political Economy and Public Policy’.
What are your goals during your time at the EUI? What are you most looking forward to?
The reason why I came to the EUI is to do what I have come to enjoy most in my job as an academic. Apart from research that is straightforwardly accepted for a good publication (but that has become a rare pleasure!), it is to assist junior scholars to do their first big piece of research and mentor post-doc researchers on their way into the academic profession. These are daunting tasks, as we all know. And I hope I can facilitate this, make it a less lonely struggle and help them to find their voice.
Are you working on any research projects or publications at the moment? Or undertaking any grants currently?
Yes, together with Maurizio Ferrera from the University of Milan and Hanspeter Kriesi here from the EUI, I am a principal investigator on a big European Research Council-funded research project on ‘Policy crisis and crisis politics: sovereignty, solidarity and identity in the EU post-2008’ (SOLID). With our team of superb post-doc research fellows, we analyse how the EU maintains the integrity of its polity more or less successfully. It seems to me that scholarship has overexplained why the EU is so crisis-prone, but not explained systematically why it pulls through some crises more successfully than others. Why was the Euro area and the refugee crises so dismal, while the membership crisis of Brexit and the pandemic were pretty good crises for the EU? We have already worked three years on this synergy project and have three more to go. Our publications are now coming out in a steady flow, so watch this space.