This paper argues that the political economy and neo-institutionalist
literatures are now at a critical juncture. The traditional emphasis on comparative studies of different models of capitalism may in fact be giving way to longitudinal analyses of long-term trends common to all advanced capitalist societies in an attempt to understand the origins and the actual features of the current economic crisis. The paper first discusses the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the analytical and normative aims, of comparative studies of models of capitalism that have dominated these literatures in the last decades. Then it turns to more recent analyses of longterm trends that aim to understand the crisis of all capitalist societies, irrespective
of their differences. In doing so, it offers a new perspective on the unusual depth and persistence of the current crisis by stressing the repeated failures of both market and state regulation in ensuring a capitalist development that consistently produces both efficiency and equity. It concludes by discussing the reasons for the resilience of recipes that are clearly unable to resolve the crisis. This resilience of neo-liberal ideas cannot be understood without reference to the dramatic change in the power resources of groups and classes and to the unresolved problem of which new actors could become the carriers of alternative ideas to overcome the crisis.