Democratizing Finance: Reducing Inequalities of Income, Wealth and Power

Politics & Society has just published a thought-provoking special issue titled “Democratizing Finance”. This interesting collection of papers resulted from a workshop organized in July 2018 by the late Erik Olin Wright as part of his inspiring Real Utopias Project.
This timely special issue starts with an introduction by Fred Block (read below its open-access version) in which he discusses what the theme “democratizing finance” means. The main use of the term “democratizing finance” in this issues focuses on reducing inequalities of income, wealth, and power, and it follows the general logic that Erik Olin Wright laid out in his books Envisioning Real Utopias (2010) and How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century (2019). While the contributors share a considerable agreement on why a democratization of the financial industry is an urgent political and social priority, they have some disagreements over the strategies to reach this essential goal.
The issue includes two anchor articles “Finance without Financiers” by Robert C. Hockett and “Financial Democratization and the Transition to Socialism” by Fred Block, and five in-depth commentaries “Economic Democracy and Enterprise Form in Finance” by William H. Simon, “Democratizing Investment” by Lenore Palladino, “Democratizing Finance or Democratizing Money?” by Mary Mellor, “To Democratize Finance, Democratize Central Banking” by David M. Woodruff and “The Politics of Democratizing Finance: A Radical View” by Michael A. McCarthy.
In the introductory essay, Fred Block writes: “Recent decades have demonstrated that finance can be an enormously destructive force as well as a powerful instrument of social reform… Our hope is that these articles help provoke further debate and discussion about the ways that the democratization of finance can be integrated into current political discourse” (p. 489). It seems to me this project definitely did a fine intellectual Democratizing Financework to promote this goal.

— Block, Fred. 2019. “Introduction to the Special Issue.” Politics & Society 47 (4): 483–489 (open-access)
“Democratizing Finance”, Politics & Society special issue

 

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B&B: Not The Nobel Prize winner // Malls and escapism // Capital and corporation // Keynesianism // Slavery and US universities // Middle class // Sex, lies and financial crises

> Congratulations to Mariana Mazzucato for winning the Promoting Economic Pluralism’s Not The Nobel Prize “for reimagining the role of the state and value in economics”. Influenced by Joseph Schumpeter and Karl Polanyi, Professor Mazzucato (University College London) is an author of widely discussed – publicly and academically – books The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths (2013) and The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy (2018)

> “Marx lived long enough to declare himself “not a Marxist.” Keynes was not so lucky”, notes Mike Beggs arguing that Keynesianism differs from the economics of Keynes in his review of Geoff Mann’s In the Long Run We Are All Dead: Keynesianism, Political Economy, and Revolution (2017)

> While malls crumble in the US and Canada, mall culture blooms in The Philippines. As cathedrals of consumption and suburban consumerism, malls serve as avenues of escapism for most Filipinos, whose daily hardships have made them feel despondent — by Jore-Annie Rico and Kim Robert C. de Leon

> “Minting Capital: The Role of the Corporation”, a video lecture by Katharina Pistor based on her book The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality (Princeton University Press, 2019)

The first enslaved African in Massachusetts was the property of the schoolmaster of Harvard. Yale funded its first scholarship with the rents from a slave plantation. From their very beginnings, the US universities and slavery have been intertwined, but only recently are we beginning to understand how deeply — by Alex Carp

> Unlike the US, the UK or other countries, the Netherlands is not witnessing the ‘erosion’ of its middle class. Yet, changes have occurred in Dutch political economy and the middle segment of society since the 1970s — a research by Godfried Engbersen, Erik Snel and Monique Kremer

> Pervasive lies and scandals inflected by gender and ethnicity are the early-warning devices for financial crises and the symptoms of their wilful forgetting. Aida Hozic and Jacqui True present their book Scandalous Economics: Gender and the Politics of Financial Crises (Oxford University Press, 2016)

political economy keynes marx sociology

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Manufacturing Personal Happiness

by Edgar Cabanas‏*

Happiness is one of the most pervasive, fast-spreading, and controvertible phenomena of the twentieth century. Grown into an obsessive pursuit, a lucrative industry, and a flawed albeit very popular science, the pursuit of happiness has woven itself deep into the very fabric of power, decision-making, organizational management, and therapeutic culture on a global scale. Whereas commonly presented as a natural and supreme goal of enormous social and psychological benefits, happiness nonetheless might well not be either the universal and self-evident good that experts claim, nor the alleged remedy for the most pressing ailments of our time but their very symptom ―as well as the cause of some novel forms of anxiety, depression, and suffering. Aiming to contribute to the ongoing debate on happiness studies from a critical sociological Manufacturing Happy Citizensperspective, Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control our Lives documents how happiness has developed into an oppressive and exhausting lifestyle that stresses personal responsibility, normalizes self-absorption, fosters consumption, and shapes individuals of advanced capitalist societies in the image and likeness of the neoliberal worldview.
The book starts with arguing against the legitimacy of the science of happiness as science and, by extension, against the validity of happiness as a scientific, measurable, and objective concept. To put it bluntly, the science of happiness has proved to be a weak and highly reductionistic science ― and, as such, so too is the rationale behind the individualistic, ethnocentric, and ideologically saturated notion of human happiness that this science postulates. The repeated affirmation that the science of happiness is a “young science” serve no longer as an excuse: Almost twenty years have already passed since this movement ―with positive psychology at the forefront― presented itself as a revolutionary field aimed at discovering, once and for all, the scientific keys to human happiness. And yet, over 64.000 research studies later, these keys are still nowhere to be found. On the contrary, if something has become clearer is that we are not anywhere nearer a deeper or more consensual understanding of happiness today than we were two decades ago.
But whereas happiness scientists and experts have not discovered the much-hyped keys to happiness, the market nevertheless seems to have found the keys to selling it. Indeed, twenty-first-century capitalism has given birth to a huge and powerful economy of happiness. This is not a figurative expression. Happiness has itself become the main commodity of a global and trillionaire industry that thrives around the offer of and demand for a prolific myriad of highly profitable ‘emodities’ ―that is, emotional services, therapies and commodities produced and consumed qua scientific techniques and psychological management aids to effect some sort of personal transformation. Coaching, mindfulness, self-help literature, positive psychotherapy, or smartphone happiness-apps are just but a few examples of a powerful economy that, taken together, amounts to a $4.2 trillion market that grows 6.4 percent annually. It might well be the case that none of the uncountable happiness products deliver the easy-to-achieve and the long-term beneficial outcomes on health and personal attainment that they so insistently promise. But it is unquestionable that these products have been rather successful in normalizing the obsession with happiness by instilling in consumers the idea that the most functional way of living is to be fixated on our inner and authentic selves, to be continuously preoccupied in managing our emotions, and to be permanently concerned with our personal transformation and betterment.
The stratospheric figures of this market also include the $48 billion that corporations worldwide invest in workplace happiness each year. As documented in the book, the reason why corporations are so interested in happiness goes beyond the widespread albeit unproven organizational mantra that happy employees are more productive: It is not only that. The reason is that happiness has proved to be a useful strategy to justify implicit organizational hierarchies of control and submission to corporate culture. Workplace happiness has indeed come in handy to push responsibility downwards; to get more commitment and performance from workers, often for relatively fewer rewards; to sideline the importance of objective working conditions when it comes to job satisfaction, including salaries; and to facilitate employees’ compliance with corporate culture. Most fundamentally, workplace happiness has proved rather effective to make work contradictions and self-exploitation more tolerable and even acceptable for employees. To be sure, what makes corporations happy is not the same that makes workers happy. Nevertheless, happiness experts, coaches, and emergent figures in the corporate sphere such as the CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) are there ―and handsomely paid for it― to ensure that employees think otherwise.
Aside from controversial institutional uses, happiness is not free from having deep and problematic moral consequences either. Just an example: Happiness scientists, experts and other self-development gurus repeatedly claim that happiness is, first and foremost, a choice we make, an attitude we develop, and an easier-than-we-think goal for everyone to achieve regardless our circumstances ― as factors such as social class, education, material resources and so on do not allegedly play any significant role in people’s happiness. It follows that if the stressed, the depressed, the lonely, or the failed do not lead happier and more fulfilling lives, it is just because they we not tried hard enough; because we have not tuned up our mood and attitudes into a positive mode, or because we have not made lemonade out of the lemons that life gives to us. Nonetheless, as empowering and hopeful as it may sound, the dark side of this message is that suffering is presented as being as much a personal choice as happiness, so those who suffer are hence suspect either of wanting their own misfortune or, worse, of deserving it. Apparently, no matter how inevitable tragedies are, any individual is supposed to be endowed with the inner power to resiliently find their way out of them ―and even to grow stronger from them. The problem is that such a tyrannical belief is only good to hold people responsible for most of their misfortunes and factual powerlessness, no matter how myopic, ungrounded or unfair this may be. Further, such a belief runs the risk of undermining solidarity and political action: In a world where everyone is held responsible for their own suffering, there is little place for pity or compassion. In a world where everyone is said to be inherently equipped with the required mechanisms to turn adversity into advantage, there is little room for complaint, either.
There is an increasing and extended feeling that the notion of happiness that scientists, experts, corporations, and the industry promote is disappointing, inadequate, and frustrating. And there are many reasons to think that this is indeed the case. The more we know about this phenomenon the more it seems that all that glitters in happiness is not gold. The merchants of happiness offer little more than the idea that complex and social problems have individual and easy fixes. The message is enticing, but it is not only at odds with reality. It might well end up turning against us by producing nothing but guilt, exasperation, and a wrong sense of deservingness, as well ―especially in the most vulnerable. It seems hence the right time to seize on these feelings of suspicion and disenchantment and seriously rethink happiness. From top to bottom.
—————
* Edgar Cabanas is Research Fellow at Universidad Camilo José Cela. He is the author of Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the Industry and Science of Happiness Control our Lives (Polity, 2019), co-written with Eva Illouz and translated to more than 10 languages, as well as the author of several scientific papers and book chapters. He is also co-editor of Routledge’s series on Therapeutic Culture since 2018, and researcher in several R&D international projects. Find more on Research Gate and Twitter @ecabanasd

Manufacturing Happy Citizens How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control our Lives

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Great academic opportunities: 18 calls for papers, 7 postdocs, 4 jobs, 2 visiting positions, 2 PhD fellowships, 2 winter schools

Dear ES/PE community member, see below an abundant list of great academic call for papersopportunities: 18 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some are partially or fully funded), 7 post-doc positions, 4 job openings, 2 visiting positions, 2 PhD fellowships, 2 winter schools — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with October 25 – November 24 deadlinesShare this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Money Power in Politics” conference, University of Hyderabad (India), 9-10 January, 2020. DL: October 30

> CfP: “Critical Differences at Work“, The 38th International Labour Process Conference, Newcastle University (Newcastle, UK), 15-17 April 2020. DL: October 30

> CfP: “Disrupting Technology: Contextualising Continuity and Change in Technology, Work and Employment” workshop, Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change, University of Leeds (UK), 16-17 January 2020. There are limited travel and fee bursaries for low-income and early-career researchers. DL: October 31

> CfP:  “Minsky at 100: Revisiting Financial Instability” international conference, Università Cattolica in Milan (Italy), December 16-17, 2019. The keynoters: Michael Kumhof and Bruce Greenwald. DL: October 31

> CfP: “Frontiers of Political Economy”, The 11th Australian International Political Economy Network workshop, University of Sydney (Australia). Limited travel and accommodation bursaries will be available for HDR students. DL: November 1 

> CfP: “Understanding Inequalities” conference, University of Edinburgh on 9-10th June 2020 (Scotland, UK). The keynoters: Ingrid Schoon,  Susan McVie, Emer Smyth, Patrick Sharkey. DL: November 1

> CfP: “Teaching Ethics To Economists: Challenges and Benefits” workshop, University of Ulster – London (UK ), 20th March 2020. DL: November 1

> CfP: “The International Debt Crisis Revisited, 1979-1991” conference on 16-17 March at and on 18-19 March 2020, University of Florence (Italy). Reasonable travel and accommodation costs will be covered. DL: November. DL: November 3

> CfP: “Inequality and Identity in Consumer Markets, Media and Industries”, the 9th Child and Teen Consumption Conference, Rutgers University – Camden (New Jersey, USA), June 16-18, 2020. The keynoters:  Amy Best, Helle Strandgaard Jensen, Fikile Nxumalo. hD Research Workshop will be held on June 15. DL: November 5

> CfP: “Engaging with Cultural Political Economy: Neoliberal Crises and Diverse Imaginaries”, the 4th International Conference on Cultural Political Economy, University of Lancaster (UK), 8-10 January 2020. DL: November 8

> CfP: The 84th Annual Conference of the Japanese Society for the History of Economic Thought, Hokkaido University (Japan), 30-31 May 2020. DL: November 9

> CfP: “The Great Transition: Building Utopias”, Historical Materialism conference, Montreal (Canada) 21-24 May, 2020. DL: November 11

> CfP: “Varieties of Capitalism in the Mediterranean (18-20 c.)“, the 4th International Conference in Economic and Social History, Ionian University, Corfu (Greece), 1-3 October 2020. The keynoter: Giorgio Riello. DL: November 15

> CfP: The BHC Doctoral Colloquium in Business History, Charlotte, North Carolina (USA), March 12-14, 2020. The colloquium held jointly with the BHC meeting. All participants receive a stipend that partially defrays travel costs. DL: November 15

> CfP: “Change and Exchange“, The International Society for Intellectual History conference, European University Institute (Florence, Italy), 27 – 29 May 2020. The keynoters: Giancarlo Casale, Emmanuelle de Champs, Laszlò Kontler, Glenda Sluga. DL: November 15

> CfP: The 16th Workshop on New Institutionalism in Organization Theory, University of Southern Denmark (Denmark), March 5-6, 2020. DL: November 16

> CfP:  “Political Economy of Agricultural Policies” workshop, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies, Halle (Germany), March 5 – 6, 2020. There is no fee for attending the workshop. DL: November 17

> CfP: “Speculative Endeavors: Cultures of Knowledge and Capital in the Long 19th century” conference, University of Bayreuth (Germany), October 22–24, 2020. Organizers hope to be able to cover travel expenses for all speakers. DL: November 22

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> Post-doctoral position in Political Economy and Development, Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon (France). DL: October 25

> Postdoctoral Fellow to work on a “From Entrepreneurship to Rentiership: The Changing Dynamics of Innovation in Technoscientific Capitalism” project, York University, Toronto (Canada). DL: October 31

> Postdoctoral researcher for a comparative project on class analysis, skills and labor market inequalities, Sciences Po (Paris, France). DL: October 31

> Two Postdoctoral researchers for project “Polarization and its discontents: does rising economic inequality undermine the foundations of liberal societies?“, The School of Social Sciences, Goethe University Frankfurt, (Germany). DL: October 31

> Postdoctoral Position at the Cluster of Excellence “The Politics of Inequality“, University  of Konstanz (Germany). DL: November 5

> Post-doctoral Researcher on Labour Market Flexibilisation, Leiden Law School (The Netherlands). DL: November 17

PhD Fellowships:

> PhD positions in Economic History, Department of Economy and Society, University of Gothenburg (Sweden). DL: October 31

> PhD candidate in Political Theory of Financial Debt, Department of Political Sciences, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands). DL: November 17

Job openings:

> Assistant Professorship (Tenure Track) in International Political Economy, University of St. Gallen (Switzerland). DL: October 25

> Tenure/Tenure Track Business and Public Policy Position, The Business, Government & Society department, University of Texas at Austin (USA). DL: October 31

> Director for the Research Institute for the Evaluation of Public Policies, Trento (Italy). Eligible applicants are professors or researchers in Economics, Sociology, Statistics. DL: November 5

> Lecturer in Economic Sociology, Department of International Business & Economics, University of Greenwich (UK). DL: November 24

Visiting positions:

> Scholar in Residence, the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne (Germany). Leading scholar in comparative and international political economy or economic sociology is invited to spend 3-6 months at the Institute. DL: October 31 

> Visiting Fellowship Programme in the History of Knowledge (2 weeks), Lund University (Sweden). DL: November 1

Winter Schools:

> CfA: “EU-Asia Politics and Markets Studies” winter school,  Department of Political and Social Science, University of Bologna (Italy), 17-20 February 2020. No fees; lunches, farewell reception and materials will be available for free. DL: November 10

> CfA: PhD Winter School on “New Political Economy of Europe: Re-Engaging the Street“, The Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at University College Dublin (Ireland), 15-16 January 2020. Up to €500 will be covered. DL: November 15

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Neoliberalism. A critical reader.

got banned from the library for moving all the books on trickle down economics to the mythology section (@Nasharchy, May 11, 2017)

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Political Economy: Origins, Meanings, Changes

Political economy should be a human science.”                                                                                                               (Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, 2001, p. 117) 

The definition of Political Economy — as a modern scholarly discipline, a research topic, a sphere of society,  or the realm of polity — has gone through many incarnations over the years, since the phrase ‘political economy’ appeared in Antoine de Montchrétien’s Traicté de l’oeconomie politique in 1615. Four centuries later, the understanding what political economy is about still varies among academics accommodating different university departments: sociology, economics, history, political science, and international studies. The point is that these variations and shifts in grasping political economy are not merely technically semantic; in their essence — consciously or unconsciously, implicitly or explicitly — they rather reflect distinct ontological premises and epistemic presumptions about human life and the mutual embeddedness of State-Economy-Society. Therefore they largely determine and shape the research questions, empirical phenomena, methodology, theoretical frameworks, presented findings, and their analytical explanation. 
what is political economyChanging Perspectives in Political Economy” is an interesting, instructive and worth reading paper by a noted German sociologist Renate Mayntz. (See its open-access copy below). In this new work, Mayntz proficiently addresses the disputed aspects, changing facets and some conventions of political economy, and then shows how they are expressed in academic publications. The paper’s abstract reads as follows: 

“The history of a research field called political economy dates back to the eighteenth century, giving rise to a variety of disciplinary approaches, and experienced a renaissance as a multidisciplinary field after the Second World War, combining economic, political science, and sociological approaches. The divergence between economic globalization and the nationally restricted scope of economic policy directs interest to the relationship between politics and the economy. A quantitative analysis of the articles published in two dedicated political economy journals shows major trends of the developing research field. The relationship between politics and economy is interpreted rather widely, and research is largely focused on Western capitalist nations. In conclusion, two avenues for further research in the field are briefly discussed” 

Already for eight years, this blog plows the ground, disseminates the seeds (of knowledge) and reaps the harvest in these fields of Economic Sociology and Political Economy. As the new academic year begins, I would like to use this opportunity to thank you — each and everyone of (around) 60,000 followers and members of our community from 160 countries. We all together do this work in different plots. So invite your colleagues, students and friends to join our common cause. Spread the word and commit to change. Thank you. — Oleg Komlik
                                                                               ***
Mayntz, Renate. 2019. “Changing Perspectives in Political Economy.” MPIfG Discussion Paper 19/6. Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne
See also recent Mayntz’s book: Crisis and Control: Institutional Change in Financial Market Regulation (2012).

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Great academic opportunities: 24 calls for papers, 17 jobs, 4 postdocs, 2 grants, 2 workshops, a PhD fellowship, a short visiting post

Dear ES/PE community member, see below an abundant list of great academic opportunities: call for papers24 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some are partially or fully funded), 17 job openings, 4 post-doc and temporary positions, 2 research grants, 2 training workshopsa PhD fellowship, a short visiting post — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with September 9 – October 14 deadlinesShare this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Inclusive growth in cities: Theory, evidence and practice” conference, University of Manchester (UK), 19 – 20 November 2019. DL: September 9

> CfP: “Inequality, education, and intergenerational mobility”, The Joachim Herz Foundation workshop, Hamburg (Germany), December 12-13, 2019. Two nights of lodging will be covered; travel funds available. DL: September 15

> CfP: “Between History, Economy and Finance. Public and Private Accounting in Europe in the Modern and Contemporary Age“, the 6th International Conference on the History of Accounting, Archivio Storico del Banco di Napoli (Naples, Italy), 7-9 November 2019. DL: September 15

> CfP: “Law and Political Economy: Democracy After Neoliberalism”, The Law and Political Economy Project’s inaugural conference, Yale Law School (USA), April 3-4, 2020. No fee; participants’ hotel accommodations will be covered; travel expenses will be covered for anyone without sufficient funding. DL: September 15

> CfP: “The Afterlives of Development” International Conference, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Beer-Sheva, Irael), January 6-7, 2020. DL: September 15

> CfP: The 1st Workshop on Climate Change and Inequality, Copenhagen Business School’s Inequality Platform (Denmark), November 7-8, 2019. The keynoter: John Hassler. Participation is free; meals will be provided. DL: September 15

> CfP: “Innovation networks in regional development” workshop, Research Centre of Economic Analysis and Public Policy, Corvinus University, Budapest (Hungary), 29-30 November, 2019. Participation is free; meals are covered. DL: September 15

> CfP: The 15th Italian Society of Law and Economics annual conference, University of Milan (Italy), December 19-21, 2019. The keynoters: Katharina Pistor, Kaushik Basu, Stefan Grundmann. DL: September 15

> CfP: “Time, Space and Political Economy“, the 3rd Annual Meeting of the the Portuguese Association of Political Economy, University of Porto (Portugal), 30 January – 1 February, 2020. DL: September 16

> CfP: “How public policy affects wellbeing and inequalities” workshop, the Welfare State and Taxation Unit of the Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy, Bocconi University (Milano, Italy). The keynoters: Janet Currie, Andrew Clark. Two nights of accommodation will be provided. DL: September 22

> CfP: “Alternative Research Perspectives in Business Disciplines” conference, University of Technology Sydney (Australia), 2-3 December 2019. DL: September 23

> CfP: “The Political Economy of International Organization”, The 13th Annual Conference, the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, Vancouver (Canada), February 20-22, 2020. No registration fee. DL: September 30

> CfP: “Challenges of the 21st Century: Democracy, Environment, Inequalities, Intersectionality“, the International Sociological Association Forum for Sociology, Porto Alegre (Brazil), 14-18 July 2020. Look at the special calls of various ISA research committees: RC02 Economy and Society, RC09 Social Transformations and Sociology of Development, RC19 Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy, RC30 Sociology of Work, RC44 Labour Movements and more. DL: September 30

> CfP: “Roads to Resilience“, the 4th Financial Inclusion Conference and Workshop, Sydney (Australia), 18-19 March, 2020. The keynoters: Sharon Collard, Frederick Wherry. DL: September 30

> CfP: The 36th conference of International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, Oslo (Norway), August 24-28, 2020. DL: September 30

> CfP: “Power Sharing or Power Shifts? Examining the role of public-private interactions in global governance“, emerging scholars’ workshop, School of Governance, Technical University of Munich (Germany),  28-29 November, 2019. One night’s accommodation will be covered. DL: September 30

> CfP: “Economic and Financial Networks“, NetSci Workshop for junior scholars, Waseda University, Tokyo (Japan), January 23rd, 2020. To attend the workshop, registration with the NetSci-X 2020 main conference is mandatory (January 20-23) — Rates for students are low. Travel stipend available. DL: September 30

> CfP: “Development Today: Accumulation, Surveillance, Redistribution”, Mini-Conference Themes Proposals for the SASE annual meeting at the University of Amsterdam, 18-20 July 2020. DL: September 30

> CfP: “World-Systems Analysis in a Critical Juncture”, the 44th Annual Conference on the Political Economy of the World-System, Department of Sociology at the University of Maryland and The Arrighi Center for Global Studies at Johns Hopkins University (MD, USA), April 10-11, 2020. DL: October 1

> CfP: “Collaboration in Business and Business History”, the Annual Meeting of the Business History Conference, Charlotte Marriott City Center (North Carolina, USA), March 12-14, 2020. DL: October 1

> CfP: “Good economics in the good economy?” workshop  as a part of the ERC project “Enacting the Good Economy: Biocapitalization and the Little Tools of Valuation”, University of Oslo (Norway), 14-15 October 2019. The keynoters: Kristin Asdal, Eve Chiapello, Andrew Barry. DL: October 2

> CfP: “The Future of Work” conference, University of Birmingham (UK), 2–3 April, 2020. The keynoters: Jacqueline O’Reilly, Daniel Susskind. No conference fee; limited travel and accommodation support will be offered. DL: October 4

> CfP: “Global flow of commodity, money, people, and knowledge“, Applied Network Science‘s special issue. DL: October 7

> CfP: “Prospects of Money: Theories, Developments, and Research Perspectives” workshop for junior scholars, Hamburg Institute for Social Research (Germany), January 23-24, 2020. Travel and accommodation costs are covered. DL: October 14

PhD Fellowship:

> The Facebook Fellowship for PhD students involved in on-going research on Social and Economic Policy, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, more. DL: October 4 

Training workshop:

> CfA: “Working with European Union Labour Force Survey” training course, The GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Mannheim (Germany), 27-29 November 2019. DL: September 30 

> CfP: “Capital”, a Workshop by Arvind Institute of Marxist Studies, Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India), November 3-9, 2019. Lodging & food will be provided. DL: October 7

Short Visiting Position:

> “Transtemporal Capitalism”, a funded 3-month Visiting Fellowships at the Institute for European Global Studies, University of Basel (Switzerland). DL: September 29

Postdoctoral and Temporary Positions: 

> A postdoctoral researcher to join studying the Evolution of Industrial  Modernity, University of Tartu (Estonia). DL: September 16

Research Scientist in the Social Study of Markets, College of Business, University College Dublin. The successful candidate will be a member of a five year project “Misfires and Market Innovation: Toward a Collaborative Turn in Organising Markets”. DL: September 20

> Postdoctoral researcher in philosophy of economics to contribute to the research theme “Values in Finance”, The Erasmus University project “Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity” (Rotterdam, The Netherlands). DL: September 30

> Post-doc researcher to support a project on the links between social trust, economic inequality, and governance outcome, United Nations University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research (Helsinki, Finland). DL: October 4

Research Grants:

> Decent Work Standards in the Platform Economy in the Global South“, one-year funded partnerships with the Fairwork project. DL: September 19

>  “The Digitalisation of Working Worlds. Conceptualising and Capturing a Systemic Transformation”, German Research Foundation. DL: October 1

Job openings:

> Head of Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School (Denmark). DL: September 10

> Faculty member in Work, Employment, and Organizations, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA). DL: September 13

> Associate Professorship of Development Studies, Department of International Development, Oxford University (UK). DL: September 13

> Assistant Professor in International Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science (UK). DL: September 15

> A tenure-track assistant professor in Sociology specializing in Inequality, The School of History and Sociology at Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia, USA). DL: September 15

Full-time Assistant Professor of Stratification and Inequality, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto (Canada). DL: September 16

> Lectureship in Economic History, The Department of Political Economy, King’s College London (UK). DL: September 22

> A Tenure Track Professor of Social Stratification and Inequality, the Institute of  Education, Labor and Society, University of Hohenheim (Stuttgart, Germany). DL: September 22

> Full Professor of International Political Economy, Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business. DL: September 25

> Assistant professor (tenure track) in sociology with a focus on market techniques, Center for the Sociology of Organizations, Sciences Po (France). DL: September 30

> Tenure-track Assistant Professor of Sociology in Global Inequality, Department of Sociology and Anthropology,Illinois State University (USA). DL: September 30

> Tenure-track Assistant Professor in Social Networks, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA). DL: September 30

> Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations, Sheffield University’s Management School (England, UK). DL: September 30

> Tenure-track assistant professor in Labor Movements and Collective Representation, Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (Ithaca, New York, USA). DL: October 1

> A tenure-track Assistant Professor in Political Economy,  Department of Sociology, University of Tennessee – Knoxville (USA). DL: October 7 

Assistant Professor in Development Studies (tenure track), The International Institute of Social Studies, (The Hague, The Netherlands). DL: October 7

> Assistant Professor in Economic Sociology, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science. DL: October 14

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RIP Immanuel Wallerstein — “This is the end; this is the beginning”

Immanuel WallersteinA towering intellectual, pathbreaking thinker, and preeminent sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein passed away. He lived a deep commitment to scholarship, justice and change.
Wallerstein has written dozens of remarkable and outstanding books, and hundreds of influential papers and shrewd commentaries. He was a field scholar, who tirelessly traveled around the world for research and lecturing. Concurrently, he has been dedicated to academic community, and served in a multitude of roles in higher education initiatives, editorial boards, and learned societies, including being elected as President of the International Sociological Association (1994-8). Due to his multifaceted contribution, Professor Wallerstein has earned numerous honorary degrees, awards and prestigious fellowships from institutions all over the world.
He was first noticed in the mid-1950’s thanks to his M.A. thesis on McCarthyism as a phenomenon of U.S. political culture. But then he decided to divert his focus away from U.S. and make Africa the venue of his intellectual concerns — which would become the first stage of his lifelong scientific and political journey. In his PhD dissertation he compared the Gold Coast (Ghana) and the Ivory Coast in terms of the role voluntary associations played in the rise of the nationalist movements. Thereafter he has actually became an Africa scholar, analyzing political developments and social issues during the processes of decolonization (see Africa, The Politics of Independence and Unity– 1961, 1967 / 2005).
Looking at his own trajectory of thinking Wallerstein wrote once: “I had the gut feeling in the 1950s that the most important thing that was happening in the twentieth‑century world was the struggle to overcome the control by the Western world of the rest of the world. Today we call this a concern with North‑South relations, or with core‑periphery relations, or with Eurocentrism. It has to be said that, in the 1950s and indeed for a long time thereafter, my assessment of what was most important was not shared by most people, for whom what some called the Cold War between democracy and totalitarianism and others called the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (both of these terms being rather narrowly defined) was (and indeed for many, remains) the central defining issue of our time. My quest was therefore not only an upward battle against a wide consensus in the political and scholarly world but against the internalized concepts deriving from this dominant view within my own mind.” (2000: xvii).
In the light of these contemplations, in the 1970s Wallerstein embarked on the second phase of his intellectual journey and moved the locus of his work to a perspective he called “World‑systems Analysis“, based on two epistemic and methodological cornerstones. The first is that the determination of “a unit of analysis” is crucial. The modern social science presumed that the state boundaries constitute the boundaries of “societies.” Wallerstein asserted that this was a very misleading assumption that ignored dependencies and interdependencies in the world. Instead, he argued, the only plausible unit of analysis is a “world‑system”, whole interpolity system rather than single national society or delimited politie that implies closure. Secondly, all analyses have to be simultaneously historic and systemic, if they aspire to grapple seriously with the explanation of the reality and social changesNeither premise was greeted with enthusiasm, when Wallerstein presented them. Especially, though unsurprisingly, such an analytical break was largely misunderstood in the US academia. In retrospect, they became his scholarly trademark and have had the greatest impact.
The Modern World-System WallersteinWallerstein’s eye-opening and powerful World‑systems Analysis has transformed the way we understand history, capitalism, colonialism, liberalism, social sciences, and also the present turbulent times. It culminated in his four-volume masterpiece The Modern World-System (1974, 1980, 1989 and 2011and three-volume collection of essays (The Capitalist World-Economy– 1979, The Politics of World-Economy– 1984Geopolitics and Geoculture– 1991) in which Wallerstein generated a unique body of original and illuminating knowledge linking nations, political economies, ideologies, markets, classes, firms, households, labor, and identity groups. While at the beginning he had difficulties finding a publisher for the first The Modern World-System and his interdisciplinary approach has been denunciated, Wallerstein has become one of those rare academics whose research has been paradigm shifting and inspiring generations of scientists, political activists and social movements.

World-systems analysis“, he once stated, “is not a theory but a protest against neglected issues and deceptive epistemologies… It is an intellectual task that is and has to be a political task as well, because — I insist –the search for the true and the search for the good is  but a single quest. If we are to move forward to a world that is substantively rational, in Max Weber’s usage of this term, we can neglect neither the intellectual nor the political challenges. And neither can we separate these from each other. We can only struggle uneasily with both challenges simultaneously, and push forward as best we can.” (2000: xxii)

Immanuel Wallerstein’s life and work certainly symbolize an imprinting journey of a genuine and committed Global Public Intellectual. 
On July 1st Professor Wallerstein deliberately wrote his ultimate commentary
This is the end; this is the beginning“, concluding it and leaving us with his final reflection: 

The world might go down further by-paths. Or it may not. I have indicated in the past that I thought the crucial struggle was a class struggle, using class in a very broadly defined sense. What those who will be alive in the future can do is to struggle with themselves so this change may be a real one. I still think that and therefore I think there is a 50-50 chance that we’ll make it to transformatory change, but only 50-50.”

Immanuel Wallerstein’s tremendous erudition, breadth of vision and depth of insight have been constantly enlightening our minds; and his legacy will have been accompanying us in (intellectual) struggles towards that transformatory change.

Recommended reading:
— Wallerstein, I. 2000. The Essential Wallerstein. The New Press (!!)
— Wallerstein, I. 2004. World-systems Analysis: An Introduction. Duke University
— Wallerstein, I. 1983/2011. Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization. Verso
— Wallerstein, I. 2006. European Universalism: The Rhetoric of Power. The New Press

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B&B: Best books in political economy // Raising elite // Missing from economics: women // Philanthropy’s interests // Living now in the pre-industrial age // Black businesses and the Civil Rights Movement

This time, especially worth reading and sharing articles:

Mark Blyth chooses and discusses the best 5 books on how Political Economy works >The Passions and the Interests by Albert Hirschman, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy by Barrington Moore, The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi, The Rhetoric of Reaction by Albert Hirschman, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes

> Those who went to top private schools are 94 times (!) more likely to be in UK’s elite, even without passing through Oxbridge — revealed Aaron Reeves and Sam Friedman after studying 120-year period

> Missing from economics textbooks: Women. Missing from economics departments: Women. Missing from economics conferences: Women. Missing from economics references: Women

> Is philanthropy repugnant to the idea of democracy? Aaron Horvath & Walter Powell: “’Disruptive philanthropy‘ seeks to shape civic values in the image of funders’ interests… to change public opinion and demand.” — A review of David Callahan’s The Givers: Money, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age

> Andy Haldane, Chief economist of Bank of England: The current relationship between pay and employment reflects the pre-Industrial Revolution period: when there were no unions, labor hours were flexible, people were self-employed, and work was artisanal

> Lending a hand: How small black-owned businesses variously supported the 1950-60’s civil rights movement — by Louis Ferleger & Matthew Lavallee

> Target2 imbalances and the stagnating political economy of Europe: A new approach is needed to curb unemployment and increase liquidity — by Muhammad Ali Nasir

best books political economy

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Arthur Miller: “An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted”

Arthur Miller

On the brink of 1975, New York Magazine devoted an issue to a look at the year 1949. A canonical playwright Arthur Miller contributed to this issue an essay on “the state of New York mind in that year” through his own reflections. This shrewd quote tackles the big, national and global, events of that period. Well, times and protagonists have changed since then, but you remember what Hegel said about what we learn from history.

An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted… A retreat began from the old confidence in reason itself; nothing any longer could be what it seemed… A sort of political surrealism came dancing through the ruins of what had nearly been a beautifully moral and rational world… The whole place was becoming inhuman, not only because an unaccustomed fear was spreading so fast, but more because nobody would admit to being afraid.” (Miller 1974: 30, 32, 36)

Miller, Arthur. 1974. “The Year it Came Apart.” New York Magazine, 30 December 1974 – 6 January 1975, 8 (1): 30-44.

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The Virtues of the Market: Wilhelm Röpke as a Cultural Economist

by Erwin Dekker*

Neoliberalism is often associated with an excessive focus on the market at the expense of both the state and society. A new book Wilhelm Röpke (1899–1966): A Liberal Political Economist and Conservative Social Philosopher, edited by Patricia Commun and Stefan Kolev (Springer, 2018), which is the outcome of a conference in Geneva held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Röpke’s passing, demonstrates that precisely this imbalance was one of the main worries of many ordoliberals, and in particular of Wilhelm Röpke. Röpke who was born in 1899, started out as many economists of his day, as a theorist of the business cycle. But more than some of his liberal friends he was convinced that a crisis as severe as the Great Depression required the state to support the natural correction process, as three chapters in the volume demonstrate, in particular the one by Lachezar Grudev.
Soon after this work on the Great Depression Röpke’s work broadened considerably. While in exile in Istanbul, on the run from the Nazi regime of which he was an early critic, he and his friend Alexander Rüstow started to theorize the far deeper crisis in society and Western culture of the 1930’s. The problem was not economic, it was far deeper, and it touched the organization of the state, the fabric of society and ultimately liberal and humanist culture.
It is here that Röpke’s great relevance lies for today, and to which most of the book is dedicated. It is clear that many of the current discontents of our day are not simply economic, but extend to social issues (immigration and free speech) as well as the state (the future of the EU and the rise of populism on the left and right). The problem is not merely the stability of our financial system or the global economy more broadly, but what in this illuminating book is called “the metastability” of our society and culture. Röpke’s work from the 1940’s onwards is an attempt to provide a unified analysis of the crisis of his times, among other things by figuring out the way in which culture, society, market and state relate to one another. It is a task too big for any one man, including Röpke, as the volume implicitly illustrates. But the strength of his work is precisely to be found in this integrative approach. It seems that none of the nineteen contributors to this book agrees wholeheartedly with his analysis or suggested cures, but it is the questions he raises, and the challenges he presents that make him relevant.
This is best illustrated in the chapter by Nils Goldschmidt and Julian Dörr who make very clear that they disagree at quite fundamental points with Röpke, but they also make clear why this disagreement can be so fruitful. More than other economists Röpke was willing to engage fully with the cultural dimension (and the religious dimension about which this book is curiously silent) of liberalism and markets. He was skeptical that liberal institutions had much of a chance in the absence of bourgeois and Christian culture, or a social order that fostered personal responsibility and autonomy. It was an unpopular argument in a secularizing society looking to free itself from many traditional institutions and norms, and one that does not sit easily with a liberal universalism. After all Christian and bourgeois culture are not global phenomena, and the regionalism favored by Röpke implies significant variation in local customs and freedoms. But it is also a point that is hard to ignore after failed Western attempts to spread democracy and markets both in post-Communist countries and other parts of the world.
This primacy of the social and cultural is also evident in Röpke’s view of the market. What he liked most about the market economy was, surprisingly, not its material effects but instead the bourgeois ethic that was intimately tied up with it, as Alan Kahan shows in his wonderful chapter on Jacob Burckhardt and Röpke. It is the ethic of personal responsibility, of thrift and prudence, of self-discipline supported by the small business family capitalism. This, however, was not the capitalism of the twentieth century with its major hierarchical firms, the technological advancement and its culture of consumerism. This modern form did not allow for the continuum between private and public virtues which Röpke sought. Instead, as his close associate Hayek later would theorize, modern man lives very much in two different worlds: the small world of the family and the open society of the market and politics.
Many of Röpke’s neoliberal friends, when given the choice, gave prominence to the ethics of the open society: tolerance, competition and rationalism. Röpke, on the other hand, sought to protect the ethics of the small closed world. This makes him an interesting critic of his times with a sharp eye for the corrupting influence of mass movements and for the importance of civil society. He had sympathies for both (European) political integration and a high degree of federalism. It makes him an original critic of monopolies: they are bad not only because they harm consumers, but also because they represent an unhealthy degree of concentration in the economy, with harmful social and cultural effects. He favored the small firm, exemplified by the independent farmer and artisan. It was an economic structure which he found in Switzerland, where he lived the latter half of his life, from 1937 to his passing in 1966.
It is not uncommon to treat Röpke and Rüstow, who spent a number of years together in exile in Turkey, as the left-wing of the attendants at the Colloque Walter Lippmann, and the later Mont Pèlerin Society. After all they were far more willing to accept interventions for social purposes, to combat unemployment for example. But this volume demonstrates the extent to which that interpretation relies on a single analytical axis that ranges from radical non-interventionism to centralized control. It is the purely economic lens through which to analyze the state. When analyzing Röpke’s work it is clear how misguided such a single axis is. His social program does not follow primarily from economic arguments, but instead from social ones. Such social reasons could be progressive, i. e. fighting unequal outcomes, but they could equally be conservative, i. e. maintaining existing social structures. Some of the early neoliberals were more progressive and therefore more willing to allow for states to step in to secure individual autonomy, others were more conservative and therefore more willing to allow for states to step in to maintain existing social structures. Röpke certainly belonged to the latter category. For both conservatives and progressives in favor of social policies the idea that some efficiency has to be sacrificed for other goals is a given, not a counter-argument to state intervention. To understand his work therefore, we have to understand what other values were important enough to sacrifice some economic efficiency and possibly economic freedoms.
These are issues that the book grapples with, although occasionally one would have wished they were addressed more directly. Röpke’s ideal image of the economy clearly seeks to protect independent farmers and artisans, because it gives rise to a social structure that is likely to support a liberal culture. Just like in his arguments against monopolies we encountered above, it is the social and cultural that take precedent not the economic. His evaluation of the 1930’s had much in common with that of José Ortega y Gasset who also lamented mass society. And hence Röpke’s resistance to fascism should be sought primarily in that direction, and only after that in the political or economic program of fascism. It was fascism’s embrace of mass society that was its gravest danger for him.
Stefan Kolev in his contribution suggests that Ludwig von Mises was wrong in associating Röpke’s program with the social program of Bismarck. This is true to the extent that Röpke despised the centralist tendencies of the nineteenth-century German statesman, but Röpke’s social vision of order had much in common with that of Bismarck. Both men sought to prevent the advent of socialism, through the revision of the role of the state in society. And, more importantly, both believed that social order required state policies that supported this social order. It opens up the possibility of an extensive role of the state in society, and Röpke never found a clear limit of this role. One might fault him for it, but I think it makes him into a deeper thinker than some of his neoliberal contemporaries. While they were content with outlining an economic program, from which other virtues were supposed to follow, Röpke wondered whether such an economic program would be sufficient for a cultural liberalism.
In the various chapters on Röpke’s relations to other conservative thinkers the fundamental question of the social order which best supports liberalism is brought out. What is the social order that fosters individual responsibility, as well as a strong civil society able to resist centralizing tendencies in the state? If we regard this question as the most fundamental, then we should ask of economic policies to what extent they sustain and foster this particular social order. For Röpke this included not merely issues of culture, but for example also of economic geography. Where the post-war Western world favored an urban home-owning structure, Röpke favored the decentralized economy of independent farmers.
Although the book contains little explicit engagement with contemporary issues, it is not hard to realize that this challenge too is still with us: local, regional and national identities and variations in economic structures have proven incredibly resistant to the homogenizing forces of markets, and often a powerful opponent of them. Current anti-globalist and anti-EU sentiments stem to a considerable extent from the fact that global markets are believed to endanger these identities and structures. This book demonstrates that Röpke’s work is full of attempts to work out these tensions, without making a simple choice in favor of one of them. Both the local identities and markets are “cooperative practices” as Henrique Schneider’s contribution points out. How to best combine these partly rival cooperative practices is a question that breathes life into Röpke’s work, just like this volume breathes life back into his oeuvre. Not because the book manages to resolve the tensions, but because it takes them seriously.
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This review essay was originally published in ORDO – Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft:
Dekker, Erwin. 2019. “The Virtues of the Market: Wilhelm Röpke as a Cultural Economist.” ORDO 69: 496-499.
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* Erwin Dekker is a post-doctoral researcher at the Erasmus School of Economics where he is working on the intellectual biography of Nobel laureate and Dutch economist Jan Tinbergen. He is also assistant professor in cultural economics at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication. He published The Viennese Students of Civilization: The Meaning and Context of Austrian Economics Reconsidered (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and his research focuses on the intersection of art, culture and economics.

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The Economist presents: the dangers of free hospital parking. The Neoliberal absurdity at its ‘best’

The Economist Neoliberalism
“If a hospital in a crowded city stopped charging [for parking], it would mean more frail, elderly people staggering into the accident and emergency ward on their own as their sons and daughters search for a space, more parents panicking as a child who has hit her head lolls in the back seat, and more labouring women leaning against railings.”

— “A lesson in parkonomics, for Jeremy Corbyn; Abolishing charges in hospitals is a terrible idea.” (The Economist, May 8, 2017)

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The Growth of Shadow Banking and State-Finance Relations

by Matthias Thiemann*

How can we understand the growth of a system of credit provisioning outside of the realm of bank regulation since the 1970s which linked non-banks and banks in a convoluted system of market-based banking, securitization and wholesale finance which burst into the public consciousness with the 2007-9 crisis as the shadow banking system? While we can observe this general trend, why do we see differences in this trend fractured according to different national legal and supervisory traditions?
My recent book The Growth of Shadow Banking: A Comparative Institutional Analysis (Cambridge University Press, 2018) aims to provide answers to these questions by exploiting the variance in the exposure of banking systems around the world with respect to shadow banking, using in-depth process tracing and focusing on the US, the country where modern shadow banking originated, Germany and the Netherlands as countries with high exposure, and France as a country with low exposure, despite common EU regulation. The book is based on more than 80 expert interviews with banking regulators, bankers, auditors and accounting scholars in these 4 countries. The book seeks to explain these divergent trends without falling into the traps of a literature that explains these issues by regulatory or cognitive capture. Not because these issues did not play a role, but because these theories employ a view of the agency of regulators which is too simplistic at best.
The Growth of Shadow Banking A Comparative Institutional AnalysisInstead of treating regulators as either bought or dopes, I seek to place the decisions of banking regulators to not regulate these off-balance sheet activities of banks, on the one hand, into their structural context, both on the national and the transnational level and, on the other hand, to their embeddedness in the regulatory networks that determine the compliance with national banking regulation. Studying the processes of the regulatory dialectics between rule evasion and re-regulation in these countries, I show that the rise of shadow banking and its continued growth were not the outcome of regulators being persistently duped by the “smartest guys in the room” or all bought by the lucrative prospects of future employment. Instead, I link its growth to the particular structural situation in which banking regulators found themselves, where regulatory competition with non-banks domestically and banks from other jurisdictions globally structured their behavior, as they formed a dialectical unity with the regulated, sharing common interests at the same time.
The book first traces the growth of shadow banking to the rising competition between banks and capital market activities since the 1950s in the United States, which threatened the disintermediation of banks and the impossibility of the Fed to prudentially intervene in the behavior of non-bank actors. Being thus constrained, they instead sought to facilitate the capital market activities of their banks from the 1970s onwards. Focusing on the Asset-Backed Commercial Paper market, I show however that this support was not unconditional and that it was subject to persistent reviews over what was and what was not allowed. This critical stance of the Fed, which in turn provoked industry innovations, came to a halt with the shift from Paul Volcker as the chair of the Fed, who had become increasingly critical of these activities, to Alan Greenspan, who was largely hands-off. Evidence drawn from interviews with the Fed officials shows how the Fed itself was internally riven between those who wanted to clamp down on these activities and force them back into the balance sheets of banks and those favouring a hands-off approach. Interestingly, this conflict would come to the fore again with Enron scandal in 2001 and would be resolved through the anticipated introduction of rules envisioned in Basel II in the US.
And here is the second element I point out in the book: the attempt to pry open the global banking market, in full swing since the 1980s leads to a difficult position for national banking regulators. Since the first Basel Accord in 1988, banking regulators as an epistemic community have sought to level the playing field by introducing transnational rules which could and should be implemented nationally. These “global” rules for banking activities were to both permit fair competition and ensure financial stability. And yet, here is the paradox: as global rules establish a level playing field, they put a disadvantage on the national re-regulation of activities that are designed by legal engineers to circumvent these global rules. The normal delays between innovation and re-regulation are expanded on the global level (from Basel I to Basel II it took 15 years to agreement and implementation) and national re-regulation in the meantime is disadvantaged due to the competitive disadvantages that national banks face in a global market for banking activities when their rules are stricter than those of their competitors. I show that both these arguments were advanced by bankers and demonstrate how they structured the agency of banking regulators. Aggravating this dynamic is the fact that global rules are placed upon national accounting rules, which by chance provide competitive advantages to banks from certain countries, as certain shadow banking activities are excluded from the purview of banking regulation by accounting definition. This in turn exerts pressure on other countries to adjust their rules to allow the expansion of these activities domestically.
Europe is the looking glass for these trends. Since 1988, with the first European banking directive, the competitive struggle to open national banking markets has been on the agenda. Due to the impossibility to agree to common banking rules and to install a common banking supervisor, European bureaucrats and politicians adopted the compromise of implementing Basel I on a binding European level and of enforcing it through national regulators. This institutional set up enshrined the contradictions mentioned before and amplified them by binding the fate of national regulators and the fate of national banking champions together. I show this best via the Dutch case, where rule evasion by banks was spotted in 2004, but was not corrected due to “competitiveness concerns” for its national champions, waiting for Basel II to come into force European wide in 2008. In Germany, which possibly is closest to a case of regulatory capture, the banking regulator is subordinated to the ministry of finance, which follows a conscious strategy to encourage shadow banking, seeking to wean Germany off its dependence on bank credit. Lastly, the case of France presents a case of successful pre-crisis regulation of parts of the shadow banking sector. This happened, on the one hand, due to the discretionary powers of the banking regulators to enforce its own interpretation of rules, its strong interactions with the compliance officers in the banking and auditing community which allowed for awareness of rule evasion as well as sanctioning power with respect to these agents. Hence, it was proximity to the regulated, not distance, which allowed the French to regulate shadow banking. At the same time, the structural context of a profitable oligopoly in France, with low foreign banking presence was helpful in weakening banks’ demands for rule relaxation.
After the 2007-8 crisis, several regulations regarding the interaction between banks and crucial capital market actors have been strengthened in Europe, the US as well as globally and some of the shadow banking activities seen pre-crisis have disappeared. And yet, the structural conditions, which facilitated its growth still exist. Regulatory competition and economic patriotism still exist; diversity of accounting systems still exist; competition between banks and non-banks providing credit still exists, which in turn leads banking regulators to go soft on their banks due to an impossibility to impose “prudential market regulation”. In that sense, the book does not expect the phenomenon of growing shadow banking activities to shrink (see for instance the recent developments in the leveraged loan market in the US). And yet, it offers several insights how the regulation of shadow banking activities could function better, by encouraging more, not less contact between regulators and financial institutions and by relying on expertise of compliance officers and other intermediaries to overcome information asymmetries. In this respect, the book opposes simple accounts of capture theory and shows that the current focus on transparency and arms-length relationships cuts regulators off from industry knowledge.
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* Matthias Thiemann is Assistant Professor of European Public Policy at Sciences Po. He holds a PhD in Sociology from Columbia University and has published widely on financial regulation pre- and post-crisis as well as the role of European public development banks in these newly reconfigurated financial markets.

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B&B: Sins of economics // Appropriating the planet // Living in precarity // You are financier // Historians and economists // Labor and serendipity // Neoliberalism uses imperialism

This time, especially worth reading and sharing articles:

> The Seven Sins of Economics: 1) Alice in the wonderland of assumptions, 2) Abuse of modelling, 3) Intellectual capture, 4) The science obsession, 5) The textbook and Econ 101, 6) Ignoring society, 7) Ignoring history — by Pramit Bhattacharya

> “Capitalism works, not because it does terrible things to nature (it does), but because it has been successful at mobilising and appropriating manifold natures for free or low cost.” – by Jason W. Moore 

> Living in precarity and precariousness. Neoliberalism portrays them as a result of individual failures, masking the power relations and structural violence embedded in the political economies. Five great short pieces on this topic published in Cultural Anthropology

> Betting on other peoples lives: “You don’t need to be an investor yourself to be involved in finance. You are already incorporated in financial calculations others perform“. Daniel Fridman discusses Ivan Ascher’s Portfolio Society, Alex Preda’s Noise: Living and Trading in Electronic Finance, and Annie McClanahan’s Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First-Century Culture

> Historians and economists have to overcome their reciprocal ignorance in order to encourage each discipline to question its own methods, habits, and aims, with a view to avoiding any blind ‘colonising’ of one discipline by the other. Guillaume Calafat and Éric Monnet hope for new links between the two disciplines

> Digital Taylorism: Labour between passion and serendipity: “There is a rather telling sign of capital’s lack of motivational pull with regard to labour that over the last two decades has developed into a management obsession: the theory and practice of ‘Employee Engagement’.” — by Sebastian Olma

> The ongoing strikes in the countries of the Global South are a result of the way in which neoliberalism uses the pre-existing channels of imperialism

dead pledges Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First-Century Culture

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The Making of Homo Financius and Neoliberal Morality

There is [a] set of qualities ascribed to the actions and conduct of mankind, distinct from their propriety or impropriety, their decency or ungracefulness, and which are the objects of a distinct species of approbation and disapprobation. These are Merit and Demerit, the qualities of deserving reward, and of deserving punishment.

These Adam Smith’s words from The Theory Of Moral Sentiments (2010: 30) imply the constitution of a system of worth relations reflected in the rewards and punishments of everyday life. In line with this argument, Smith depicts in this book the character of a virtuous person. Such a person, he suggests, would embody the qualities of prudence and self-command. Prudence moderates the individual’s excesses and self-command moderates his passions and reins in his destructive actions. Morality, according to Smith, is created by nature.
Daniel Maman and Zeev Rosenhek have recently published in The British Journal of Sociology an interesting paper “Responsibility, Planning and Risk Management: Moralizing Everyday Finance through Financial Education“, which derived from their research project “The Making of “Homo Financius”: The Emergence and Development of Financial Literacy in Israel”. This revealing paper revolves around the question on how the state programmes of financial education define the individuals’ basic qualities that purportedly underpin proper financial conduct, formulating a model of the desired financially literate subject in the age of neoliberalism. The abstract reads as follows:

“The individualization, privatization and marketization of risk management represent a fundamental dimension of the financialization of everyday life. As individuals are required to engage with financial products and services as the main way of protecting themselves from risks and uncertainties, their economic welfare and security are construed as depending largely on their own financial decisions. Within this setting, the concept of financial literacy and accompanying practices of financial education have emerged as a prominent institutional field handling the formulation and communication of the attributes and dispositions that arguably constitute the proper financial actor. This article analyzes financial education programmes currently conducted by state agencies in Israel, examining the notions and principles they articulate when defining and explaining proper financial conduct. The study indicates that moral themes and categories occupy a salient place in the formulation of the character traits that constitute the desired literate financial actor. Notions of individual responsibility, planning ahead and rational risk management are presented not merely as instrumental resources, but as moral imperatives. Through these notions, the programmes moralize a broad array of everyday practices of personal finance such as saving, investing, borrowing and budget management, thereby connecting the sphere of financial matters to the domain of moral virtues. Offering a representation of particular modes of financial conduct as constitutive components of morally virtuous personhood, these practices imbue the financial field as a whole, especially its current generalized logic of individualized and marketized risk management, with moral meanings, hence contributing to the normalization and depoliticization of the financialization of everyday life.”

Now, let us return to Adam Smith. The depoliticizing impetus features most of his economic writings, but it contrasts with other parts The Theory Of Moral SentimentsNot only prudence and self-command, as I mentioned above, he considers as virtues in this book, but also justice and beneficence. Justice limits the harm we do to others and it is essential for the continuation of social life; beneficence improves social life by prompting us to promote the happiness of others. Well, where is THIS Adam Smith when we need him?…
In their paper Maman and Rosenhek made an insightful contribution in shedding light on how the state agencies, institutional actors and mechanisms concoct the neoliberal morality and conduct the moralization of the economic field within particular macro-institutional context. This important research direction should be amplified more in our field. One thing is certain: in (neoliberal) capitalism moral sentiments play a key role in the extraction of economic value.

Maman, Daniel and Zeev Rosenhek. 2019. “Responsibility, Planning and Risk Management: Moralizing Everyday Finance through Financial Education.The British Journal of Sociology https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12698

Financial literacy

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