About the project

The number and size of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) has grown substantially in the last decade, leading to an unsettled debate regarding their legitimacy in the global political economy, particularly as many originate from the Global South and from illiberal political economies (e.g. China).

Some suggest they represent the (re)emergence of state-led capitalism subject to geopolitical motivations that threaten free markets. For others, SWFs represent a source of long-term patient capital capable of mitigating market short-termism. Either way, SWFs challenge the norm, particularly in the Global North, that financial markets are spaces of exchange for non-state actors. By analyzing the behavior of SWFs, their interaction with different stakeholders at home and abroad, and how they are legitimized as financial actors in the global political economy, SWFsEUROPE will provide new critical insights into the contemporary relationship between the state and the market.

 SWFsEUROPE is a five-year research project titled Legitimacy, Financialization, and Varieties of Capitalism: Understanding Sovereign Wealth Funds in Europe.

Sub-project: Is there a ‘new’ state capitalism? (Ilias Alami and Adam Dixon)

This project scrutinizes the political-economic determinants of the growing role of states as investors in the world economy. It aims to unpack the geographies of operation of contemporary state-controlled transnational investment, and locates them within braoder dynamics of global economic development. Theoretically, the project critically interrogates the notion of state capitalism as a heuristic to render these developments amenable to analysis, and provides a novel theorization of the multiple state-capital entanglements that have now emerged as key actors in the world economy. The results of this project will be published as a series of peer-reviewed articles​, and as a book-length research monograph co-authored by Ilias Alami and Adam Dixon.

PhD Research Project (Imogen T. Liu)

Practicing Legitimation: How SWFs Navigate the Political and Financial Imperatives of State Capitalism is a PhD sub-project conducted by Imogen T. Liu and supported by SWFsEUROPE. The project aims to draw wider conclusions about state capitalism through the lens of China’s sovereign wealth funds and state-owned enterprises.

Arguably the most successful case of state-led development in terms of GDP growth, China has heralded the resurgence of state capitalism on the heels of the global financial crisis. Yet, the search for coherent models of Chinese capitalism are more symbolic of the country’s phenomenal growth story than substantive contributions to theories on state-directed capital accumulation. Employing a mix of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, the project will draw on ethnographic data sources such as interviews with key individuals as well as statistical data on transnational capital flows between China and host countries.

PhD Research Project (Anzhalika Yeraminovich)

The sub-project with the title Strategic Investment Funds as a New Instrument of the State in Economic Management and Development investigates strategic investment funds in the post-socialist countries. 

Strategic investment funds (SIF) are state-owned institutional investors, set up to attract foreign investors, help catalyze new industry, and support domestic financial market development. Whereas their influence extends to different areas and elements of an economy, no extensive study has been conducted about the specific ways in which the funds affect and change the conditions of capital accumulation. Employing the methods of document analysis and semi-structured interviews, this projects aims to reveal the role of SIFs in the management and development of the two post-socialist economies, Russia and Kazakhstan. More broadly, the project seeks to contribute to the studies about the state-led forms of capital accumulation.

Fast facts

  • 5 year research project
  • 4 full-time research staff
  • 2 PhD sub-projects
  • European Research Council supported