My work on the euro applies the theories of Science and Technology Studies (STS) to a controversy that some might say is all politics and no science. I think this characterisation is mistaken. For all its problems, economics is a serious attempt to collect data and use it to test theories. If this turns out to be difficult, ambiguous and contested then, at least for the STS purist, this makes it more like science rather than less.
The single european currency debate in the UK is an ideal case study in the effect of public participation in a complex decision that involves both science and political dimensions. Choosing a currency also means choosing the institutions that will manage that currency as well as making judgements about the ways in which economic growth, interest rates, investment and so on will be effected by this. There is thus a legitimate argument that the decision to join the euro is one that requires approval in a referendum (although it should be noted that, when the UK joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism, it did so without one).
In analysing how the campaigns have developed over time I have been particularly interested in the way the idea of a referendum, and thus of mass participation, has influenced the conduct of the different campaign and pressure groups. The most important ideas to have come out of this work as as follows
The work on euro has given rise to several publications. The most important of these is :
Evans, Robert (2004) ‘Talking about Money: Public Participation and Expert Knowledge in the Euro Referendum.’ British Journal of Sociology, 55(1), (2004) 35-53. <http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2004.00005.x>
In this paper I argue that the nature of the referendum process puts a premium on the economic concerns of floating voters. As a result, campaign groups on both sides would prefer to emphasis the economic underpinnings of their case and avoid complex constitutional issues. As a result, if there is ever a referendum on the euro in the UK it seems likely that any debate about the politics of the euro that emerges will be despite that process, not because of it.
There are also some working papers based on the euro research (see below) plus one more that I’d like to write if I ever find the time. The missing paper would examine the euro referendum campaign as an example of neither "bottom-up" nor "top-down" campaigning but as an in-between category best described as "top-up" campaigning in which elite groups struggle to convince those in power that they can or can not hope to win an referendum. That the "no" campaign were largely successful in this effort is reflected in the way in which the euro debate atrophied within the UK so that, what seemed like a window of opportunity for the pro-europeans in 1997 gradually closed until, by 2001, the struggle was not to save the pound but to save the pro-euro campaign.
Last updated on 14 December, 2007