Gordon unbound: the heresthetic of central bank independence in Britain

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This article combines theory and narrative to shed new light on the politics surrounding the making of central bank independence in contemporary Britain. Its central argument is that Gordon Brown's rewriting of the British monetary constitution in May 1997 constituted political manipulation in a Rikerian sense. The government removed a contentious issue from party politics in order to signal competence and enforce internal discipline. Building on Elster's constraint theory, the paper argues that Brown adopted a pre-commitment strategy aimed at binding others. The heresthetic move had dual consequences, both constraining and enabling. The institutionalization of discipline enabled New Labour to achieve economic and political goals. By revisiting the political rationality of precommitment, this article questions the dominant credibility story underlying the choice of economic institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-293
Number of pages31
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
Early online date25 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • New Labour
  • Gordon Brown
  • British monetary constitution


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