B&B: Markets and the Decline of Democracy // Materiality of Finance // Myth of Agricultural Revolution // Data and the Future of Work // Books on Globalization // Academic Managerialism

This time especially worth reading and sharing pieces:

> “Free Markets and the Decline of Democracy” is an insightful lecture given in 2018 by the late John Weeks, an progressive heterodox economist and avid critic of capitalism. Being a rigorous scholar and committed public intellectual made his books particularly revealing and tought-provoking: Economics of the 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy (2014) and The Debt Delusion: Living Within Our Means and Other Fallacies (2020)  

> We have been told this story about history: humans lived in egalitarian bands of hunter-gatherers, then came farming and private property, and then modern cities have emerged. The late David Graeber and David Wengrow argue that this persistent narrative is wrong and it erroneously presents social inequality as inevitable.

> The best 5 books on Globalization – its past and present, its underpinnings and consequences – presented and recommended by Dani Rodrik: Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium by Ronald Findlay and Kevin O’Rourke (2007), Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century by Jeffry Frieden (2006), Globalizing Capital: A History of the International Monetary System by Barry Eichengreen (1996), One World Now: The Ethics of Globalization by Peter Singer (2002), The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi. I would add to this list The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times by Giovanni Arrighi (1994), States and the Reemergence of Global Finance: From Bretton Woods to the 1990s by Eric Helleiner (1994), Capitalism in the Age of Globalization: The Management of Contemporary Society by Samir Amin (1997), Rodrik’s The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy (2011), and Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism by Quinn Slobodian (2018).

> The ‘all-administrative’ university offers students not an education but a credential with a market value, it prefers them and their faculty not reflective but fast and efficient. Can Higher Education be saved from academic managerialism? — by Ron Srigley

> How ‘datafication’ is resculpting work, why ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ is the extension of old logics and dynamics, and how Covid-19 is likely to further imbalance power at work absent reform. — by Hettie O’Brien and Mathew Lawrence

Don’t you want to attend the most interesting and promising online talks and webinars on various topics in economic sociology and political economy from all over the world? Of course you do! So follow the ES/PE’s FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin pages, Whatsapp and Telegram channels to have information about these events that are publicized only on our social media several days before they take place.

> On the materiality of finance, and on cheapness as a complex social process involving not only economic externalization, but also culturally and historically forms of technology, labor, and aesthetics — an interview with Sarah Besky

> Class and Precarity in China: A Contested Relationship — by Chris Smith and Pun Ngai

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Thorstein Veblen on Business Interests in Education and Media

Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of Business Enterprise (1904) is a superb political economy book in which this original economist, talented sociologist and influential intellectual analyzed the growing corporate domination of culture, society and the economy in the US at the dawn of the 20th century. Looking around and thinking about, I recently recalled the following two Veblen’s arguments, which are relevant and acute today as they were 120 years ago. Each era has its own Robber Barons.

The indirect or incidental cultural bearing of business principles and business practice is wide-reaching and forceful. Business principles have a peculiar hold upon the affections of the people as something intrinsically right and good. They are therefore drawn on for guidance and conviction even in concerns that are not conceived to be primarily business concerns. So, e.g., they have permeated the educational system, thoroughly and intimately. Their presence, as an element of common sense, in the counsels of the “educators” shows itself in a naive insistence on the “practical” whenever the scheme of instruction is under advisement. “Practical” means useful for private gain. Any new departure in public instruction, whether in the public schools or in private endowed establishments, is scrutinized with this test in mind; which results in a progressive, though not wholly consistent, narrowing of instruction to such learning as is designed to give a ready application of results rather than a systematic organization of knowledge… The primary test is usefulness for getting an income. […]
There is also a large resort to business methods in the conduct of the schools; with the result that a system of scholastic accountancy is enforced both as regards the work of the teachers and the progress of the pupils; whence follows a mechanical routine, with mechanical tests of competency in all directions. This lowers the value of the instruction for purposes of intellectual initiative and a reasoned grasp of the subject-matter. This class of erudition is rather a hindrance than a help to habits of thinking. It conduces to conviction rather than to inquiry, and is therefore a conservative factor.
A more far-reaching department of the educational system, though not technically rated as such, is the periodical press, both newspapers and magazines.
[…] The current periodical press, whether ephemeral or other, is a vehicle for advertisements. […] Publishers of periodicals, of all grades of transiency, aim to make their product as salable as may he, in order to pass their advertising pages under the eyes of as many readers as may be. The larger the circulation the greater, other things equal, the market value of the advertising space.
The first duty of an editor is to gauge the sentiments of his readers, and then tell them what they like to believe. By this means he maintains or increases the circulation. His second duty is to see that nothing is said in the news items or editorials which may discountenance any claims or announcements made by his advertisers, discredit their standing or good faith, or expose any weakness or deception in any business venture that is or may become a valuable advertiser. By this means he increases the advertising value of his circulation. The net result is that both the news columns and the editorial columns are commonly meretricious in a high degree.
” (Veblen 2016: 222-3).

Veblen, Thorstein. 2016. The Theory of Business EnterpriseNew York: Scribners.

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Great academic opportunities: 10 calls for papers, 10 jobs, 6 postdocs, 3 summer schools, 3 PhD fellowships, 3 awards

call for papers

Dear ES/PE community member, find below a list of great academic opportunities:  10 calls for papers for conferences and special issues, 10 job openings, 6 post-doc positions, 3 PhD fellowships, 3 summer schools, and 3 awards in economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with April 1 — April 30 deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Best wishes and good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Activist Organizing and Organizing Activism: A Post-pandemic World in the Making“, an Ephemera journal’s online conference, May 31 – June 1, 2021. No fee. DL: April 2

> CfP: “Narrative in Economics: Historical Experiences” workshop organized by Mary S. Morgan and Tom Stapleford, online, September 3-4, 2021. DL: April 5

> CfP: “Recovery from the Covid-19 Pandemic: Re-thinking the Role of the State towards Safe, Cohesive, Sustainable, & Innovative Economies“, the 33rd European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy conference, online, September 2-4, 2021. Keynoters: Stephanie Kelton, Joseph Stiglitz. The conference has research areas, such as Economic Sociology, Institutional Change, Comparative Political Economy, History of Political Economy, Critical Management Studies, more. DL: April 15

> CfP: “Structural Inequalities Uncovered – the Contributions of Heterodox Economics in Tackling Racial and Gender Inequality“, the 23rd conference of the Association for Heterodox Economics,  to be hosted online on Fridays throughout July 2021. Keynoters: Gargi Bhattacharyya, Elissa Braunstein, S. Charusheela, Lyn Ossome, Elias Sampaio and Sunanda Sen. No registration fees. DL: April 15

> CfP: “Business and Finance in Latin America: From the Oil Shock to the Debt Crisis“, Business History‘s special issue. DL for proposals: April 15

> CfP: “Economic Sociology of Innovation” international workshop organized by Alexander Ebner and Filippo Reale, Goethe University Frankfurt (Germany), December 3-4, 2021. Keynoters: Richard Swedberg, Richard Whitley. Workshop proceedings are going to be published in a volume and in a special issue. Participation is free of charge. Pending on the availability, workshop presenters may receive financial support for travel and accommodation. DL: April 16

> CfP: Ad Hoc Group on Financial Infrastructures at the Congress of the German Sociological Association and the Austrian Sociological Association, Vienna University of Economics and Business (Austria) or online, August 23-25, 2021. DL: April 18

> CfP: “Ruptures, Transformations, Continuities. Rethinking Infrastructures and Ecology” conference of the DFG Centre for Advanced Studies “Futures of Sustainability”, University of Hamburg (Germany), online, November 25-26, 2021. DL: April 30

> CfP: “Institutions and Socio-economic Changes: Italy and Europe in the International Context in a Historical Perspective” international conference, School of Economics and Business Studies, Roma Tre University (Italy), September 16-18, 2021. DL: April 30

Don’t you want to attend the most interesting and promising online talks and webinars on various topics in economic sociology and political economy from all over the world? Of course you do! So follow the ES/PE’s FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin pages, Whatsapp and Telegram channels to have information about these events that are publicized only on our social media several days before they take place.

> CfP: The 7th International Workshop on the Socio-Economics of Ageing, Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão, Lisbon (Portugal), October 29-30, 2021. Keynoter: David Bell. The best paper by an author below the age of 35 will receive an award of 500 Euros. DL: April 30

Doctoral Fellowships: 

> PhD position within “Clash or Convergence of Capitalism: Property Conflicts over Chinese Direct Investment in Germany and the EU“ project, Max Weber Center, University of Erfurt (Germany). DL: April 12

> 3 PhD positions for the following PhD projects “Controlling the market for corporate control“, “The future of work“, “Managing conflict and instability in public-private supervisory networks” at the Erasmus School of Law (Rotterdam, the Netherlands). DL: April 25

> 2 PhD positions for the projects “Accelerated exploitation through resource nationalism in Brazil” and “Supply chain consolidation through joint ventures with multinational enterprises“, the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands). DL: April 30

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> Postdoc Fellow in Ageing and Social Change, Department of Culture and Society, Linköping University (Sweden). DL: April 14 

> Research Fellow to join a project investigating digital disruption in the workplace and the emergent issues pertinent to workforce resilience, the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities and the Department of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. DL: April 15

> Post-Doctoral Research Fellow to work on “Resolving and Advancing the Theory and Measurement of Precariousness across the Paid/unpaid Work Continuum in Europe” project, the Centre for Sociological Research, KU Leuven (Belgium). DL: April 18

> Post-doctoral Fellowship in Social Network Analysis, Department of Sociology and Social Research at the University of Trento (Italy). DL: April 19

> Research Associate at the project ‘Universities and Unicorns: Building Digital Assets in the Higher Education Industry’, Lancaster University’s Department of Educational Research. DL: April 23

> Beyster Postdoctoral Fellowship or Visiting Professorship, the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations. The fellow can be a resident at the University or at their home institution; the grant can be used for research, travel, and living expenses. DL: April 30

Summer Schools:

> CfA: Summer Institute for doctoral students  & junior scholars, the Center for the History of Political Economy (Duke University), online, June 3-5, 2021. DL: April 1

> CfA: Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy‘s Global Scholars Academy (for junior scholars from the Global South), The Graduate Institute, Geneva (Switzerland) or online, August 16-20, 2021. Among the Academy’s topics: Global Corporations, Development and Inequality, Social Movements, The Future of Work ,more. DL: April 2

> CfA: The Economic History Society’s PhD Thesis Workshop, online, June 28-29, 2021. DL: April 12

Job openings:

> Chair in Sociology specializing in inequality/ welfare/ organizations / networks, Department of Political and Social Sciences, the European University Institute (Florence, Italy). DL: April 7

> Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations, Sheffield University Management School (UK). The School is particularly interested in candidates with expertise in areas that align with the theme of ‘Decent Work in Decent Workplaces’: Equality, Inclusion and Voice; Labour in the Global Economy; Regulation and Governance of Work. DL: April 15

> 2 Managing Directors for “Economic Security, Mobility, and Equity” program and “Race, Ethnicity, Gender and the Economy” program, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (Washington, DC). DL: April 15

>  Senior Instructional Professor in Global Studies (economic and political globalization; career-track position), The University of Chicago College, University of Chicago (USA). DL: April 15

> Associate / Professor in Economic and Social History, the University of Oxford (UK). DL: April 16

> Researcher or Senior Researcher specialised in European industrial relations, workers’ participation, and economic and industrial democracy at the Research Department of the European Trade Union Institute (Brussels, Belgium). DL: April 20

> Lecturer in the Institute for International Management, Loughborough University London (UK). The Institute has a emphasis on comparative political economy and critical management approaches and is keen to get applications from sociologists. DL: April 25

> Assistant Professor specializing in Labour Market and Work, the Interdisciplinary Centre of Labour Market and Family Dynamics, University of Warsaw (Poland). DL: April 30

> Chief Editorship of Socio-Economic Review, the flagship official journal of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. DL: April 30


> The 2021 Jörg Huffschmid Award for PhD dissertation or Master thesis in Political Economy (broadly defined; written in English or German). DL: April 1

>  Luis Aparicio Prize for an Emerging Scholar studying work and labour, by the International Labour and Employment Relations Association. DL: April 23

> The 2021 Egon-Matzner-Award for Socio-Economics by the Vienna University of Technology will be presented to young scientists (up to 35 years of age) for a scientific publications (namely contributions to international peer-reviewed journals) in the following fields: socio-economics, heterodox/pluralistic/evolutionary / institutional economics, public finance and fiscal federalism, infrastructure policy. DL: April 30

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The Paradigm Shift in Political Economy and the Failure of the Mont Pelerin ideas

by Vadym Syrota*

The current period of socio-economic development across the globe is featured by the paradigm shift in dominant economic theory similar to the one that took place in 1970-80s. The appearance of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944) sparked a variety of heated debates across the world exhausted by the Second World War, after which the new economic order was established based on extensive state involvement, the elements of centralized planning, and the creation of the welfare state. To oppose these tendencies the group of intellectuals led by Hayek met in the Swiss town of Mont Pelerin in 1947. Thus, the Mont Pelerin Society was set up to ensure both the transmission and diffusion of “free-market” ideology. Activity of such intellectual unit allowed a small circle of utopian thinkers to prepare the ideological, political and economic revenge of laissez-faire capitalism under the label of “neoliberal renaissance”.
Now the tide is back: over the last decade serious flaws of the unfettered capitalism have become obvious. Given the existing concerns about rising inequality, low productivity, technological disruption, and lack of space to apply the monetary toolkit, it would be quite reasonable to suppose that the paradigm shift in political economy is on the global economic agenda. According to OECD, which hosts under its umbrella New Approaches to Economic Challenges Initiative, if the world is to address the existing challenges successfully “business as usual is not an option”. The ways to implement economic policy must go beyond the traditional instruments to encompass reform of institutions, social policy and political narratives. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks openly about “a new Bretton Woods moment”. Moreover, Jeffry Frieden, professor of government at Harvard University, at his article published in the IMF journal Finance & Development recently revealed positions that clearly oppose widely-spread neoliberal dogmas. He argues, for instance, that unilateral trade is practically unheard of, and no country today pursues it. There is also no universal economic cure: policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic vary from country to country in line with different health, economic and political circumstances. 
Deeply understanding the importance of political economy theoretical background to facilitate successful economic transformations, one should pay attention to the resonant statement by Neil Fligstein and Steven Vogel “Political Economy after Neoliberalism”, dubbed as Manifesto for New Thinking, in which they presented three core principles of alternative political economy.
The first principle: state/government is an important player in economic processes. Government serves as a designer of market infrastructure. For instance, financial centres are believed to exemplify the best practices of free-market and non-restricted competition: to succeed in their development free movement of capital and financial liberalization are necessary components. Government decisions to set up specific legal and regulatory environment were required prior to the establishing of global financial hubs. For example, the “Big Bang” that would become a milestone in the development of the City was triggered by Thatcher’s conservative government: abolishing minimum fixed commissions, ending the separation between those who trade stocks and shares and those who advised investors, allowing foreign firms to own UK brokers, and so on. So it is not surprising that the experts of a well-known British institute Chatham House defined that the post-coronavirus European political landscape could be marked by demands for a new social and economic contract: citizens will expect and demand more of the state. This crisis has the potential to fundamentally shift Europe’s political economy towards a new balance between the state and the market. It would likely emphasize a stronger and interventionist role for the state and reduce openness to market forces. 
The second principle: politics matters. Political economy should investigate how political and market powers interact proposing the best way to build effective check-and-balances system. Analytical contribution of Artem Gergun on the welfare state development shows the nature of such interaction between politics and economy. This concept may be considered as social trade-off serving to limit and mitigate class conflict, to balance the asymmetrical power relation of labor and capital, and thus to overcome the disruptive struggle and contradictions that were the most prominent feature of pure laissez-faire capitalism. Moreover, such political and economic framework is the byproduct of the coexistence of the two different ways to modernize the society: Western-based free market approach and socialistic experiment led by the Soviet Union. According to Gergun, from the perspective of modernization theory, the industrial development would lead to a post-ideological democratization across the globe. Modernization process would eventually finish ideological and military rivalry between two opposing blocs of the Cold War: industrialized socialist societies would reduce their structural inefficiencies by invoking some of free market practices; and, vice versa, liberal democracies would overcome the drawbacks of laissez-fair capitalism by balancing market failures with enhancing welfare state and social security programs.
Following these arguments, each country designed a unique combination of check-and-balances between business, state and labour according to its own specifics. Unfortunately, the paradigm shift towards neoliberal economic ideology in 1970-1980s resulted in the trend of welfare state decline. So, the potentially “win-win” strategy of sustainable development was replaced by a formula of “advanced capitalism minus the welfare state”, having been generating a number of historic battles to forge the particular forms of governance in the economies worldwide.
The third principle: no “one-size-fits-all”. Acrimonious discussion, useful to illustrate this notion, have appeared on the pages of Financial Times. The heated debates, for instance, focused on the concerns about the existence of “zombie firms” — corporate businesses that fail to generate enough revenue to make their interest payments on borrowings and have low valuations that suggest moribund prospects. Supporters of free-market ideas appealed to the advantages of Shumpeter’s “creative disruption”: market economies are constantly adapting to new technologies and organizational models, supply discontinuities and other disruptions. Such adaptions and innovations are the primary engines of growth. A Shumpeterian policy avoids the distortions of politically chosen winners that tilt the level playing field against small competitors and disruptive technologies.
Another group of intellectuals backed Keynesian approach: economic shocks should be countered by government spending to recover full employment and general equilibrium, including corporate business bailouts. They argued, regarding their opponents’ position, that Shumpeterian approach requires a number of prerequisites to be implementable, including effective safety nets, means for new skills acquisition, etc. Moreover, financially weakest companies are not always the same as the least productive ones. Studies found that in France a surprisingly large share of companies with pandemic-related solvency problems are at the top of their sectors in terms of productivity. Thus, the choice whether to prefer Keynesian or Shumpeterian approach cannot be prescribed by common guidance: it depends on a variety of social factors, the level of institutions development and specific economic profile of each country. 
To sum up, it is obvious that the period of neoliberal dominance in economic thinking worldwide is nearing the end. New political economy approach will be in line with what the OECD experts called “the sociality of human beings and their embeddedness in social institutions“. So, today’s economists and policy-makers have a unique opportunity to adjust the Mont Pelerin Society heritage to the needs of our time. There are a lot of cozy villages in the Swiss Alps that may host meetings of leading thinkers resulting in the foundation up-to-date intellectual incubators to promote the new political economy agenda.
Vadym Syrota (PhD) is an independent banking expert and former official of the National Bank of Ukraine (central bank) at banking supervision and financial stability departments. He is a regular contributor to the Kennan Institute blog (Woodrow Wilson Center, USA) and numerous Ukrainian business and economic media outlets.

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Great academic opportunities: 10 calls for papers, 8 PhD fellowships, 6 jobs, 5 post-docs, 4 summer schools

Dear ES/PE community member, see below a list of great academic opportunities:call for papers  10 calls for papers for conferences and special issues, 8 PhD fellowships, 6 job openings, 5 post-doc positions, and 4 summer schools in economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with March 1 — March 31 deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Best wishes and good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “The Hustle Economy: Race, Gender and Digital Entrepreneurship“,  Data & Society’s workshop, online,  May 20, 2020. DL: March 1

> CfP: “The Illusion of Merit” interdisciplinary workshop, held online by the Cardiff University, April 15, 2021. Keynoters: Robert Frank, Jo Littler, Daniel Markovits, Robert Sugden. DL: March 10

> CfP: “Work beyond Crises“, the 5th WORK conference by the University of Turku Center for Labor Studies, online, August 18-19, Oct 13-14, December 8-9. DL: March 15

> CfP: “Caring Communities for Radical Change”, the 8th Degrowth Conference, The Hague or online, 24—28 August 2021. DL: March 15

Don’t you want to attend the most interesting and promising online talks and webinars on various topics in economic sociology and political economy from all over the world? Of course you do! So follow the ES/PE’s FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin pages, Whatsapp and Telegram channels to have information about these events that are publicized only on our social media several days before they take place.

> CfP: “Technology and Society in the Americas: new frontiers and dilemmas of contemporary capitalism“, Shared Americas’ issue. DL for proposals: March 15

> CfP: “Trade Unions and Free Trade in the Post-pandemic Environment: Moving Towards Trade Justice” workshop, online, May 7. The objective is to establish the basis for a research network dedicated to exploring possibilities for an alternative global trade regime. DL: March 26

> CfP: “Regulatory Governance: Who Carries the Conversation?“, The 8th Biennial Regulatory Governance Conference sponsored the ECPR Standing Group on Regulatory Governance, online, June 23-252021. DL: March 31

> CfP: “Law and Economics: History, Institutions, Public Policies”, the 18th Conference of the Italian Association for or the History of Political Economy, online, June 17-18, 2021. Keynoter: Katharina Pistor. DL: March 31

> CfP: The 52nd History of Economic Thought Society Conference, Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, September 1-3,2021. DL: March 31

> CfP: “Transnational Employment Relations in the European Union” conference (September 2021) and subsequent ILR Review‘s special issue. DL: March 31

Doctoral Fellowships: 

> Two PhD studentships on adoption of digital technologies in business or retail services, The Digital Futures at Work Research Centre and the University of Sussex (UK). DL: March 1

> Doctoral Scholarship in Demography & Social Inequality, the Cologne Graduate School in Economics and Social Sciences, University of Cologne (Germany). DL: March 1

> PhD studentship in “Financing ‘Green’ and ‘Sustainable’ Transitions” from a critical political economy perspective, Warwick University (UK). DL: March 7

> Doctoral student within a project “Special-purpose Money: Complementary Digital Currencies and the Sustainable Development Goals,  the Department of Business Administration, Lund University (Sweden). DL: March 9

> PhD funded positions to explore the impacts of collaborative workspaces in rural and peripheral areas, various universities across Europe. DL: March 14

> Doctoral Scholarships in Labour Market research, the Institute for Employment Research and the School of Business and Economics of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. DL: March 15

> PhD programme under the theme of “The International Linkages of Capitalist Growth Models“, the Institute for International Management, Loughborough University (London, UK). DL: March 25

> 2 PhD candidates in institutional theory and innovation economics, the Chair for the Study of Economic Institutions, Innovation and East Asian Development at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main (Germany). DL: March 31

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> Postdoctoral researcher for a project looking at how labor markets have changed, and how these changes affect the careers of individual workers, Department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam. DL: March 2

> Research Officer in “Inequalities: Cities, Jobs and Economic Change” theme, The International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics. DL: March 3

> Four postdoctoral positions in various topics in Science, Technology and Society (STS), the Institute for Research and Innovation in Society, Paris (France). DL: March 5

> Post-doctoral positions in themes related to Political Economy and Economic History, École des hautes études en sciences sociales – EHESS (France). DL: March 8

> Research Fellow in Mission Oriented Innovation Policy, the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (directed by Mariana Mazzucato), University College London. DL: March 11

Summer Schools:

> CfA: “Practice and Process Studies: Pushing the Boundaries of Socio-materiality“, the Warwick Summer School on Practice and Process Studies, online, July 27-29,  2021. Faculty: Davide Nicolini, Katharina Dittrich, Mira Slavova, Jorgen Sandberg, Hari Tsoukas. DL: March 15

> CfA: “Cooperation in Organizing and Innovating“, the Medici Summer School in Management Studies, online, June 14-June 18, 2021. The School — organized by Bologna Business School, HEC Paris (Society and Organizations Institute) and MIT Sloan School of Management — is designed to promote doctoral education in organization theory, economic sociology, management studies. No fee. DL: March 30

> CfA: “Critical Management Studies” PhD course, Lund University, May 10-14, 2021. Teachers: Mats Alvesson, Yiannis Gabriel, Dan Kärreman. DL: March 31

> CfA: “Modern Money Theory” summer school organized by Edward Lipiński Foundation and Heterodox Publishing House, Poznań (Poland), September 8-12, 2021. Confirmed speakers: Dirk Ehnts, Bill Mitchell, Eric Tymoigne, Alla Semonova, Zdravka Todorova, L. Randall Wray, Maurice Höfgen. DL: March 31

Job openings:

> Assistant Professor in Inequality, Global Labour Movements and Workplace Democracy, Department of Social Science, York University (Toronto, Canada). DL: March 5

> Lecturer in Economic and Social History and Political Economy, Department of History, Economics and Society at the University of Geneva (Switzerland). DL: March 7

> 2 Assistant Professor in International Social and Public Policy, Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics. DL: March 16

> Lecturer in Political Economy / Public Policy in Emerging Economies,  Department of International Development, King’s College London. DL: March 21

> Lecturer in Global Political Economy, the Politics Department, University of Manchester. DL: March 29

>  Assistant or Associate Professor in Economic Sociology, the Department of Sociology of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. DL: March 31

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How Capitalism Survives: Social Theory and Structural Change

by Francesco Boldizzoni*

For as long as neoliberalism – the face that capitalism has assumed since the 1980s – has been showing signs of aging, there has been a tendency to view every crisis as a harbinger of impending epochal change. This is true even for crises that do not originate in the economy or finance, as shown by current debates about the world after Covid-19. The interesting fact is that the sense of doom that surrounds these critical events fuels not only the hope of overcoming the disastrous social model that has dominated these last decades, but capitalism as such, which is hastily defined as “unsustainable” for the inequalities it undeniably produces, the racial injustice it perpetuates, the harm it does to the environment, and so on.
Sometimes, these great expectations are fed by utopian theories that treat capitalism as if it were merely an ideology. Ideologies, as we know, are beliefs spread by the ruling classes to justify their privileges. If capitalism is an ideology, it will be enough to demystify it; once the deception is unveiled, people will see the light, is the reasoning of Thomas Piketty. More often, expectations grow in the wake of fantasies of radical change that are harbored independent of any social theory. In this theoretical vacuum, anything becomes possible: human agency is thought to be all powerful. Capitalism can be overthrown, activists tell us. You just have to want it and persuade other people to want it. In any case, as soon as each crisis is over, these hopeful people are faced with the inertia of history that invariably frustrates their desires. This problem prompted me to write Foretelling the End of Capitalism: Intellectual Misadventures since Karl Marx. The book seeks to explain the persistence of capitalism in the Western world by building a more rigorous theory of its dynamics.
To understand how capitalism is still around, despite all the troubles it has caused, I perform two related operations. The first is to examine the unfulfilled forecasts of its death that have followed one another since the mid-nineteenth century. Contrary to a widespread perception, these did not emerge from left-wing intellectual circles only but from conservative ones too. It is, of course, important to contextualize social forecasting historically, but also to identify its errors. Using this information, I then get to the second step, which is to outline a theory of capitalism. The theory I am going after should clarify what capitalism is made of, what forces have kept it alive, and possibly give us some clue as to where it is or isn’t headed.
We can classify forecasts into four types based on the causal chain they assume. First, there are the implosion theories typical of orthodox Marxism, according to which capitalism would implode because of its economic contradictions. A second group includes the exhaustion theories of the likes of John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes. For these thinkers, capital accumulation would stop at some point due to environmental limits, saturation of material needs, moral or civilizational progress. Next come the theories of convergence that were particularly in vogue in the interwar period and the following years of the “end of ideology.” These stressed how technological development and the trend toward state planning were making capitalism and socialism increasingly resemble each other. Finally, mention should be made of the cultural involution theories associated with Joseph Schumpeter, Daniel Bell, and to some extent Jürgen Habermas. These pointed to the self-defeating character of bourgeois society, emphasizing how capitalism, by breeding its parasites and critics, was undermining its own values while even the political superstructure erected to save the system from itself was prey to disintegrative tendencies.
Equally varied is the repertoire of forecasting mistakes. They range from cognitive distortions, or biases in thinking due to well-known limitations of human cognition, to more fundamental theoretical flaws that reflect a misapprehension of the relationships between social realms or involve the use of inappropriate explanatory models. However, there is a factor that seems to have operated at a deeper level and this is the irrational faith in progress that has characterized much of modern social science. In fact, many forecasters shared two attitudes that were both legacies of the Enlightenment: an unshakable belief that the future would bring good things and an equally strong confidence in the capacity of reason to detect laws of historical development. Such laws would enable one to anticipate not only what was or wasn’t reasonable to expect from the future but actually how the future would look like.
If the flaws that plague capitalism have not proved decisive for its demise, then should we conclude that its persistence is due to its virtues? The typical explanation of mainstream economics is that capitalism is sustained by its supposed efficiency, thanks to which it also tends to prevail over other systems. I don’t buy this “efficiency view” either. My thesis is that the reasons why capitalism persists have nothing to do with the quality of its fabric but are to be found in the social structure in which it is embedded and that two elements, combined, are involved in its reproduction: hierarchy and individualism.
All complex societies are to some extent hierarchical, but capitalist society has inherited from the feudal society out of which it grew some highly asymmetrical power relations. The same dependence created by need that used to bind serfs to their lords now binds food delivery riders to their billionaire exploiters. Capitalism replaced old hierarchies with new hierarchies. It brought about a new category, namely, class, that is still very central to our societies. While social distinctions in the old world reflected status at birth, in the new world they are based on the ability to accumulate money. In this sense, capital led to a reconfiguration of social stratification. Yet, the true element of novelty that accompanied the rise of capitalism, and the one that distinguishes it most, is individualism. People today feel motivated by their preferences, needs, and rights, rather than by the norms and duties that come from belonging to a community. They have relationships mediated by contracts and mainly resort to the market to meet their needs. Over time, this market logic and the underlying profit motive have become increasingly generalized, even extending to sensitive spheres of human life such as work and health care.

These hierarchical social structures and individualistic values have taken shape over many centuries and can’t suddenly disappear. If hierarchy has been with us for almost all time, individualism is intertwined with the particular form taken by modernization in this part of the world. In a way, it was the price to pay to be free from oppressive forms of social control and able to make decisions for oneself. Fortunately, however, not all Western societies are hierarchical and individualistic to the same degree, which explains the existence of more or less tolerable varieties of capitalism.
For the avoidance of doubt, I do not think that capitalism will go on forever. All social systems in human history have had a beginning and, after undergoing a slow yet relentless evolution, they are eventually turned into something else. There is no reason to believe that capitalism will be an exception. But it won’t die because of any internal contradictions nor just because we want it to. Moreover, if we try to imagine what kind of system could evolve from capitalism in a few centuries, we might not like it either. As Ralf Dahrendorf once observed, the oppressed of one epoch have never become the rulers of the next. Elites have always been superseded by competing elites. That’s why, I think, achieving greater social justice under capitalism should be the highest priority for progressives.

As I mentioned at the outset, I wrote this book with an eye for those who dream about big system change. History shows how difficult it is to achieve even small, incremental changes. While it is always good to aim high, one must put their best energies into battles that can be won. Ending neoliberalism, which is only forty years old after all, looks like a more reasonable bet.
* Francesco Boldizzoni is Professor of Political Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the author of Foretelling the End of Capitalism: Intellectual Misadventures since Karl Marx (Harvard University Press, 2020). His previous publications include The Poverty of Clio: Resurrecting Economic History (Princeton University Press, 2011) and Means and Ends: The Idea of Capital in the West, 1500-1970 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). (Emphases added by the editor)

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Great academic opportunities: 16 calls for papers, 6 postdocs, 4 jobs, 3 PhD fellowships, 2 visiting posts, a summer course

Dear ES/PE community member, see below a list of great academic opportunities:call for papers  16 calls for papers for conferences and special issues, 6 post-doc positions, 4 job openings, 3 PhD fellowships, 2 visiting posts, and a summer course in economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with January 31 — February 28 deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Best wishes and good luck!

Calls for Papers:

CfP: “After Covid? Critical Conjunctures and Contingent Pathways of Contemporary Capitalism”, the 33rd meeting of the Society of the Advancement of Socio-Economics, ONLINE, July 3-5, 2021. DL: February 10
SASE is the major scholarly and professional global organization of economic sociologists and political economists. Its meetings are genuine intellectual fetes thanks to the affluence of presented knowledge and a warm, stimulating atmosphere. SASE’s
 18 Research Networks focusing on various aspects of the socio-political study of the economy will have their own sessions, and during the meeting will be also held 16 thematic mini-conferences.
On day before the conference will be conducted the SASE Early Career Workshop. Selected Participants will have conference fee waived. DL: February 10.

> CfP: “Should Wealth and Income Inequality Be a Competition Law Concern?” conference, University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands) or online, May 20-21, 2021.  Keynoters: Eleanor Fox, Ioannis Lianos, Martijn Snoep. No fee. If the conference will not take place entirely online, accepted speakers without budgets may apply for partial reimbursement of costs. DL: January 31

> CfP: “Politics and Ethics of Platform Labour: Learning from Lived Experiences” conference organized by the University of Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, April 13-14, 2021. Keynoters: Mary Gray, Alex Wood, Alexandrea Ravenelle. The conference will be held online, but an in-person meeting of of the speakers in Cambridge will take place later in the year, for which travel bursaries will be available. DL: February 1

> CfP: “China and the Contestation of the Liberal Economic Order” workshop, to be held online, June 3-4, 2021. DL: February 8

> CfP: “Big Tech, Corporate Power & Economic Performance: Revisiting Monopoly Capitalism“, Cambridge Journal of Economics‘ special issue. DL: February 8

> CfP: “Unsettling Development“, the Development Studies Association conference, online, June 28 – 2 July 2, 2021. DL: February 8

Don’t you want to attend the most interesting and promising online talks and webinars on various topics in economic sociology and political economy from all over the world? Of course you do! So follow the ES/PE’s FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin pages, Whatsapp and Telegram channels to have information about these events that are publicized only on our social media several days before they take place.

> CfP: “Reality: The Value of Institutional Empiricism”, the 42st Annual Meeting of the Association for Institutional Thought, April 12-25 2021, online. Extended DL: February 8

> CfP: The 85th Annual Conference of the Japanese Society for the History of Economic Thought, Osaka University of Economics (Japan) or online,  September 25-26, 2021. DL: February 9

> CfP: Economic Sociology Research Network (RN09), Critical Political Economy (RN06), Sociology of Consumption (RN06), Work, Employment and Industrial Relations (RC17) sessions at the 15th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Barcelona (Spain)  or online, 31 August – 3 September, 2021. DL: February 15

> CfP: “Ethnography of Finance” session at the 8th Ethnography and Qualitative Research International Conference, University of Trento (Italy) on online, June 9-12, 2021. DL: February 15

> CfP: “Technological Change, Digitalization and Life Course Inequalities” conference, SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy, University of Bremen (Germany) or online, September 20-21, 2021. Keynoters: Tali Kristal, Mario L. Small, Glenda Quintini. No fee. Travels and accommodation costs up to 650€ for three PhD students will be covered. DL: February 15

> The Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics invites short submissions for a forthcoming special issue devoted to the challenges posed by global pandemics. DL: February 15

> CfP: “Finance and Migration“, the European Association for Banking and Financial History conference in cooperation with National Bank of Greece, Athens (Greece), June 11, 2020. DL: February 15

> CfP: The 10th Congress of the French Association for Political Economy, Toulouse (France) or online, June 29 – July 2, 2021. DL: February 26

> CfP: “Markets and Power in the Digital Age” international conference organized by the Economic Sociology section of the Swiss Sociological Association, University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland), September 16-17, 2021. DL: February 28

Doctoral Fellowships: 

PhD positions within Organizations and Social Change track, University of Massachusetts Boston Business Administration program (USA). DL: February 1

> University Assistant in Economic Sociology, the Department of Economic Sociology, the University of Vienna. DL: February 11

>  Doctoral positions in Economic Sociology and Political Economy at the International Max Planck Research School on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy in conjunction with the University of Cologne and the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany). DL: February 28

Postdoctoral Positions: 

>  Postdoctoral researchers in the three areas: Political Economy of Growth Models, Wealth and Social Inequality, Sociology of Public Finances and Debt at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (Cologne, Germany). DL: January 31

> Postdoctoral position in Economic Sociology, the Department of Economic Sociology, the University of Vienna. DL: February 9

> Postdoctoral Fellowship in conjunction with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar “Currency and Empire: Monetary Policy, Race, and Power” at the New School (NYC, USA). DL: February 15

A.SK Post-doctoral Fellowships (residential and non-residential) on public policy with a focus on economic reforms, the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (Germany). DL: February 15

Research Associate in Comparative Employment Studies within the “Decent Work and the City” project, the Work and Equalities Institute, the University of Manchester (UK). DL: February 19

> Postdoctoral position in Housing and Urban politics, the Institute for Housing and Urban Researc, Uppsala University (Sweden). DL: February 22

Summer School:

CfA: “Mechanisms of Social Inequality in Education, the Economy, and Healthcare” summer course  by the University of Würzburg’s Institute of Political Science and Sociology, online, July 19-23, 2021. DL: February 15

Job openings:

> Associate Professorship in the Political Economy of China, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford. DL: February 1

> Assistant/Associate Professor specializing in the study of Critical Political Economy in a comparative context, the Department of Politics, York University (Canads). DL: February 12 

> Assistant Professor of Political Science specializing in Political Economy of China, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (USA). DL: February 19

> Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Feminist Labour History to join  ‘Gender Equalities at Work: an Interdisciplinary History of 50 years of Legislation’ rpject, University of the West of England Bristol (UK). DL: February 24

Visiting positions:

> Visiting Fellowships within “The Politics of Inequality: Perceptions, Participation and Policies“, University of Konstanz (Germany). DL: January 31  

> The NEH-Hagley Fellowship on Business, Culture, and Society supports residencies for research purposes at the Hagley Library in Wilmington, Delaware (USA). DL: February 15 

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Condemning the University of Leicester — Standing for Political Economy and Critical Management Studies

On January 18 — the first day of second semester — senior managers at the University of Leicester (UK) notified dozens of academic staff members and professional employees that their jobs are at risk of redundancy. In the midst of the deadly pandemic, the University, whose motto “So That They May Have Life”, blatantly threatened the livelihood of its most committed and aspiring workers which, for about a year, have been facing exhausting workload.
One part of this “Shaping for Excellence” plan — yes, this is how the managers are calling it — aims at ‘disinvestment from research and scholarship in Critical Management Studies and Political Economy‘. This incredible objective threatens at least 16 School of Business academics working in these fields of study. The Economic Sociology and Political Economy global community is shocked by this troubling and disgraceful scheme, strongly condemning it and unequivocally calling to abandon it. This scheme raises serious questions about the process for selecting those potentially affected by the redundancies. It appears that it is on the basis of the content, not the quality of their academic research and teaching, or anything to do with their performance
Moreover, 8 of these 16 School of Business’ faculty members happen to also be union branch representatives. It is shameful that the University of Leicester, that is branding itself as “Citizens of Change”, is targeting elected trade union officials, many of whom also have international and transdisciplinary reputations for their outstanding scholarly contribution.
The University of Leicester School of Business has been globally renowned for its critical research, reflexive and socially minded management training, and the excellence of the researchers working in those fields. Indeed, this school was instrumental to the development of these disciplines within UK and EU higher education in general and within business education in particular. If the redundancies occur, then it would throw into doubt the integrity of the School, the quality of its programmes, and competency of the University’s leading figures. 
In the midst of the chaotic pandemic and enormous economic crisis no serious business school should be settling for “business as usual”. Rather, they should be forging new theoretical paradigms and practical tools for more equal and empowering value creation instead of inserting neoliberal indoctrination about the pursuit of profit. They should be equipping students with the critical perspectives and interdisciplinary knowledge to tackle traditional business assumptions and replace them with ones that better serve the holistic needs of the economy, society, and environment. Indeed it is precisely these broader insights, encompassing Critical Management Studies and Political Economy, that are already being asked for and will be certainly asked for in the post-pandemic era by advisory boards, governments, the private sector, and civil society organizations.
Therefore, the ES/PE community firmly requests to abandon this scheme: its timing is brutal, its process is shady, and its substance is more than questionable. It goes directly against the University’s proclaimed commitment to “championing academic freedom” and puts its very essence in danger due to neoliberal-managerialistic myopia of yesterday — instead of embracing path-breaking thinking leading to sustainable tomorrow. 
The ES/PE community stands in solidarity and supports the University of Leicester branch of the University and College Union in their just struggle against job cuts, defending livelihood and research of their members as well as protecting critical education, professional growth and intellectual development of their students.
Please sign this letter of condemnation addressed to the University and circulate this post widely if you want to lend your voice to stopping this assault on academic freedom and political economy scholarship.

higher education neoliberalism

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Making History

Voltaire: “Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.”                            “En effet, l’histoire n’est que le tableau des crimes et des malheurs.”                                                                                                  (The Sincere Huron / L’Ingénu,  1767, ch.10)

This is apparently a sound observation, but an incomplete one.
History is also a tableau of fighting crimes and overcoming misfortunes.

Black and White by Akuryo

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Trump as Messiah

by Ivan Light

How can they still back him? During the Trump presidency, this question arose again and again when, despite a relentless succession of failures, lies, outrages, and scandals, his voters loyally backed Trump. The question remains unanswered because, standing outside Trump’s political base, opponents who asked it could not answer it. To explain extreme political loyalty, one must dispassionately examine  political ideas for their consequences, not their truth value. When that is done, Trump emerges as a messiah, not just a politician. A messiah is a savior predicted by prophets of old. Because saviors were predicted, people know that saviors are coming. When change-makers  appear, believers compare them with the template they inherited in order to decide whether this change-maker is the predicted savior. Once recognized, a messiah has a license to exercise charismatic authority in the service of rule-defying innovation. Jesus of Nazareth was that kind of messiah. Predicted by prophets of old, Jesus broke with pharisaic Judaism to create a new religion. With some loss of emotional intensity, messiahs can be secular as well as religious. A secular messiah can emerge from any thought tradition that predicts rule-breaking supermen who rescue the people from disaster. In economic thought, entrepreneurs periodically break rules to renew and reconstruct the market economy. Entrepreneurs are economic messiahs because, predicted in advance, they command prophetic authority to enact rule-defying innovation. When a secular messiah is also a religious messiah, as is Trump, the messiah has dual constituencies and so enjoys expanded authority. Trump’s messianic authority explains the loyalty of Trump’s followers.  

From Luther to Trump
Trump’s messianic authority derived from secular and religious ideas that entered the American consciousness at different moments in history but some of which predate the American Revolution. The ideas that conferred messianic stature upon Trump arrived in four historic waves, each of which modified but did not erase the priors. Of these, the earliest and most important was the Protestant Reformation which introduced religious ideas friendly to capitalism. Martin Luther (1483-1546) developed the idea that ordinary people had a religious duty to labor in their occupation and that idleness was sinful. In John Calvin’s (1509-1564) theology, wealth became a sign of God’s favor and poverty of disfavor. On this view, business owners enjoyed God’s favor in this world and salvation in the next; the poor endured God’s chastisement in this world and damnation in the next. Enjoying God’s respect, wealthy business owners deserved the respect of all decent folk. Reformation Protestantism transitioned to British America in the seventeenth century but was firmly institutionalized only in New England outside of which churches and clergy were few. Into this religious vacuum came three religious revivals of momentous historical importance. The first “great awakening” (1740-1750) spread an emotional and pietistic Protestantism to unchurched colonists in every region, especially the South. Two subsequent awakenings  (1790-1830, 1860-1890) expanded a popular following for an evangelical Protestantism that combined personal piety and Biblical inerrancy with respect for wealth acquired in business and condemnation of the poor for their poverty. In 2018, one quarter of American adults characterized themselves as evangelical Protestants and of these, half resided in the South. Most of them voted for Trump.

From Darwin to Trump
In the late nineteenth century, Darwinian ideas greatly influenced social thought all over the world. In Europe, social Darwinism linked to nationalism, imperialism, and militarism. Hitler was a social Darwinist. In the United States, Darwinism linked to business. As is well understood, Darwin’s theory of natural selection undermined the inerrancy of the Bible, and evangelical Protestants rejected it for this reason. Ironically, social Darwinism lent scientific authority to the old-fashioned Protestant understanding of the class hierarchy as a ladder of personal merit.  The leading American Darwinist was William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) in whose memorable phrase, a “struggle for existence” pitted humanity against indifferent nature. Sumner argued that “heroic” entrepreneurs did and rightly should control the economy because business was a monetized jungle success in which had proved their optimal fitness. “In the struggle for existence,” he wrote, “money is the token of success.[1] Sumner also blamed the poor for their poverty, but his grounds were naturalistic, not religious. In Sumner’s view, nature had declared the poor unfit to survive, a judgment beyond human appeal. No Pollyanna, Sumner conceded that Gilded Age entrepreneurs cheated their way to wealth by “fraud, swindling, and financial crimes,” but he excused their immorality. Why did it matter that some millionaires were “idle or silly or vulgar” as long as they capably managed the economy? [2] The huge fortunes of the business elite represented “the legitimate wages” of economic leadership. Social Darwinism dispersed adulation of wealthy business owners and trickle-down economics to educated, secular conservatives outside the South who were ready to understand the market economy as the natural order rather than a human contrivance. Among those who received the message decades later was Donald J. Trump who explained, “The world is a vicious and brutal place… It’s a cruel world and people are ruthless.” Trump even endorsed social Darwinism by name: “A lot of life is about survival of the fittest and adaptation as Darwin pointed out.”[3]

From Schumpeter to Trump
Sumner’s idealization of “heroic” business tycoons influenced subsequent economic thinkers. In the early twentieth century, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) introduced the concept of “creative destruction” that put entrepreneurs at the epicenter of the capitalist innovation cycle. Schumpeter proposed that capitalism had periodically to destroy what existed in order to replace it with something newer and better. Doing just that, entrepreneurs predictably strode forth to rejuvenate capitalist progress. Initially, Schumpeter depicted entrepreneurs as biological “supermen” endowed with inherited genius, will, and physical energy well above ordinary levels, an extreme statement that he later modified. After all, the central task of entrepreneurs was only to push forward economic innovation, overcoming opposition, and demolishing existing structures. This philosophy is paraphrased by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as “move fast and break things.” Writing entrepreneurs into economic theory in this way, Schumpeter predicted their periodic recurrence, identified their benign long-term consequences, legitimated their rule-breaking, and inscribed that understanding into economic science, which then diffused it to publics unaffected by evangelical Protestantism or social Darwinism. Doing all that, Schumpeter cast rule-breaking entrepreneurs as secular messiahs.

From Batman to Trump
The public does not read economics, but economics gets into comics. The most famous entrepreneur in American society is Batman, a comic-strip superhero invented in 1939. Batman comics and films combined, amplified, and transmitted entrepreneurship imagery derived from prior historical sources. The fictional Batman also resembles the real Donald Trump to a startling extent.  Like Donald Trump, Bruce Wayne (Batman) is a billionaire entrepreneur who inherited and runs a vast family business. Like Donald Trump, Bruce Wayne built a glamorous reputation as a spend-thrift playboy who conspicuously appears in the company of beautiful women. Ordinary people admire Wayne’s glamorous lifestyle as in reality they admired Trump’s. Like Donald Trump, Bruce Wayne became a celebrity in Gotham City as a result of his conspicuous consumption of luxury.  Like Trump, Wayne boasts a genius-level intelligence, high energy, athleticism, and trained ferocity. With the exception of athleticism, all these are traits Trump claims for himself. Trump did not invent Batman; Batman invented Trump.
In the Sumner/Schumpeter vision, entrepreneurs are economic saviors, but in Gotham City the playboy entrepreneur promoted public safety as well as public prosperity. The playboy entrepreneur secretly risks his life to  protect citizens from criminals whose insane depravity threatens civilization just as, it must be observed, believers credit president Trump with defending against the Q-Anon conspiracy. Because of his genius, athleticism, technology, energy, and ferocity, characteristics derived from Schumpeter and Sumner, Batman defeats criminals against whom police were helpless. True, his methods violate laws, but they work so Gotham residents excuse them. Admiring Wayne’s luxurious lifestyle, Gotham City residents are unaware that Wayne protects them at his own expense, but Batman fans learn that playboy entrepreneurs protect them from depravity. In this way, the movies and comic strips primed Batman fans to understand entrepreneur Donald Trump’s soteriological mission and legitimate his rule-breaking. Predicting the playboy savior, Batman made a messiah out of candidate Trump. Sensing the advantage of identification with Batman, Trump’s political campaigns consciously encouraged the candidate’s identification with the caped crusader.

Trump as Messiah
John Maynard Keynes once wrote that “madmen in authority distill their frenzy” from the writings of long-dead “scribblers.” This is also true of comic strips. Batman condenses, embodies, and disperses messages of Protestantism, Darwinism, and economics that, retaining their separate niches, had already diffused into American popular culture by 1939, seven years before Donald Trump was born.  When candidacies confirm the arrival of messiahs, people hear a savior’s voice. Importantly because of prophetic folklore, wealthy entrepreneurs acquired the basic qualification to secure the Republican Party’s nomination for president. In the twenty-first century, all Republican candidates for president have been wealthy entrepreneurs. During the presidential debates in 2020, three entrepreneurs were also Democratic finalists (Bloomberg, Steyer, Yang) and two  were billionaires. None were janitors even though there are many more janitors than billionaires. Unlike janitors, who carry a cultural freight of meritocratic failure, billionaires stride before the public as super-successful products of the competitive marketplace. Thanks to Batman and those long-dead scribblers, the American public knows in advance that entrepreneurs possess high intelligence, energy, drive, ambition, a killer instinct and benign concern for social wellbeing. Moreover, because predicted by scribblers, the public knows that billionaire entrepreneurs can save them by the exercise of charismatic authority in the service of rule-defying innovation.
Was Trump a sacred or secular messiah? He was both. In 2017, the Pew Research Foundation asked a sample to agree or disagree to this statement: “God chose Trump to become president because God approves of Trump’s policies.” Fifty-three percent of white evangelical Protestants agreed as did 32 percent of Republicans,  but only 18 percent of white Catholics did so. Of course, policies make a difference too, and evangelical Protestants approved of Trump’s policies but so did conservative Catholics who did not endow Trump with divine authority. If we ask how fervently a political base supports a politician, we ask about loyalty. Mere politicians obtain bounded approval that evaporates in the face of malperformance; secular messiahs obtain loyalty that stretches; and religious messiahs obtain fanatical adherence. Understanding Trump as a heaven-sent messiah, Trump’s evangelical supporters backed his rule-breaking innovation as God’s plan in action. Most Republican voters are not evangelical Protestants. Among all Republicans only one-third understood Trump as a religious messiah, but among the remainder, many understood him as a secular messiah foretold by economists of old. Batman fans understood Trump as a benevolent, swamp-draining superhero. It is fair to conclude that Trump’s base consisted mostly of loyalists of whom about half considered him a sacred messiah and others a secular messiah. This was not accidental. As a result of the cultural history of the United States, Trump acquired a political base primed to understand him as a messiah, not just a politician. Trump inherited this base and did not create it. The culture of the United States offered it as a free gift to his candidacy, and he made the most of it.

[1] Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1944), 58.
[2] William Graham Sumner, Social Darwinism (Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963 [1885]), 150-157.
[3] Donald J. Trump with Meredith McIver, Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education in Business and Life (Philadelphia: Vanguard, 2009), 23.
* Ivan Light is professor emeritus of sociology at UCLA. This essay builds upon ideas developed more fully in Entrepreneurs and Capitalism Since Luther: Rediscovering the Moral Economy (Lexington, 2020) by Ivan Light and Leo-Paul Dana. Email: light@soc.ucla.edu.

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“…The time was ripe for the fascist solution.”

“When things are obvious or clear, using ‘obvious’ or ‘clear’ is redundant. Use these words sparingly in your writing”, noticed Robert Gallager. I recalled this technical advice while thinking about writing something, let’s call it, substantial in the light of the dark events in the US. But for a long time already all relevant topics have been extensively discussed here from various perspectives… There is nothing new under the sun. Blindness, however, bedazzledness, and subservience still bemuse me. Although I cannot restrain myself from recollecting Zygmunt Bauman’s observation that “this was the unspoken credo which lent credibility to the unclouded trust that post-Enlightenment liberals vested in the human individual’s capacity for immaculate conception.” (2000: 168).
Five years ago I wrote that the major collision of polities and ideologies in the 21st century will be about Authoritarian Neoliberal Regime (or tendencies) versus Democratic Social State (or spirit). I wish I could say with confidence that I know which side carried the day on January 6th, 2021. I know what my mind and soul strive for and are committed to, as well as all members of our community. But in Immanuel Wallerstein’s last words: “I think there is a 50-50 chance that we’ll make it to transformatory change, but only 50-50.”
The post’s title quotes Polanyi in his great The Great Transformation – you’ll find an insightful and striking excerpt from it in the first link aired with some accompanying thoughts two days after Trump’s inauguration. Wasn’t it obvious then?..
The other selected links also present various important reflections on the subject matter:

> Karl Polanyi on the Rise of Fascism and Market Economy

> Free to Choose: Hayek’s Road to Fascism

> Forms of Capital and Moral Legitimation of Capitalism (by Ivan Light)

> How Neoliberalism Prepared the Way for Donald Trump (by Zygmunt Bauman)

> Social Media, Authoritarian Capitalism, and Donald Trump (by Christian Fuchs)

> Folk economics, economic sociology, and Trump’s campaign (regarding Richard Swedberg’s “Folk Economics and its Role in Trump’s Presidential Campaign”)

> Polanyi’s Prescience: Covid-19, Market Utopianism, and the Reality of Society (by Margaret Somers and Fred Block)

> Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy, Materialism and Political Economy

> Back to the Future: Authoritarian Neoliberal Regime versus Democratic Social State (regarding Ralph Miliband’s classic The State in Capitalist Society)

> C. Wright Mills on Knowledge, Power, and the Moral Duty of the Intellectual


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B&B: Neoliberal Feminism // Corporate personhood // Kinship, religion and blockchain // Why is strike called ‘strike’? // The history of the planning state // Business’ grasp of universities

This time, especially worth reading and sharing pieces:

> “The history of the planning state and its dismantlement is today more relevant than ever, as we continue to endure the deadliest pandemic in a century… This question is especially relevant in cities, given that the coronavirus not only takes advantage of the most precarious urban residents but does so by exploiting some of the worst planning failures of recent years.” – by Jacob Anbinder 

> Over a century ago, Thorstein Veblen observed the problematics of the control of universities by businessmen and their subversive influence on research and scholarly culture. In the context of the current managerialist approach in academia, Nick Romeo and Ian Tewksbury reread Veblen’s The Higher Learning in America: A Memorandum on the Conduct of Universities by Business Men

> “Unemployment isn’t natural. It’s a legal and social choice”. How job security and democracy at work can cure the unemployment pandemic, discusses Ewan McGaughey, an author of A Casebook on Labour Law (2018)

> The Long History of Corporate Personhood: Business has consistently been one of the most powerful forces in political life. So how did this come to be obscured? asks Lawrence B. Glickman, an author of Free Enterprise: An American History (2019) and Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America (2012)

Do you want to attend the most interesting and promising online talks and webinars on topics in economic sociology and political economy from all over the world? So follow the ES/PE’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter pages to have information about these events that are publicized only on our social media several days before they take place.

> Neoliberal Feminism: It does recognise various forms of gender inequality, but the solutions it posits elide the socioeconomic and cultural structures of these phenomena, portraying women as atomised, self-optimising, and entrepreneurial — by Catherine Rottenberg, an author of The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism (2018)

> Starting with hedonism of the bohemian Bloomsbury Group and ending with credit default swap, Jennifer Szalai reviews Zachary Carter’s new excellent and wit personal and intellectual biography of Keynes The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes (2020)

> Why are strikes called ‘strikes? The answer goes back 250 years, to the birth-pangs of the English Working Class — by Dermot Feenan

> Do kinship and religion pave the road to the blockchain and to a future beyond credit-money and debt, without the need for banks or governments to serve as central repositories of trust? — by Natalie Smolenski

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Top 10 Most-read Economic Sociology and Political Economy Posts of 2020

This holiday season looks, and feels, different. As 2020 comes to an end, probably many of us have never greeted the new year with so much hope, despite all concerns and some skepticism. Anyway, I’m sending you and your loved ones my heartfelt wishes for good health, confidence, and peace in the New Year. Let it be better and safer, more solidary, more positive, and more joyful — for all.
I rounded up here the top 10 most-read posts of the year on the Economic Sociology and Political Economy community blog. These interesting posts unsurprisingly reflect to a large extent the complex socio-economic realities during this turbulent and rough year as well as political and intellectual challenges it generated and posed. They also express our gradual understanding of the Covid-19 crisis. You are welcome to (re)read and share them. 
I would like to use this opportunity and genuinely thank everyone for being here and for making this community what it really is! Thank you for keeping reading, thinking, and acting. Thanks for every click, ‘like’, retweet, and comment! Thanks for spreading the word and recommending the ES/PE your colleagues, students and friends. Thanks for posting online, referring and sending me links and articles.

About 5,000 new members joined us this year, and the ES/PE community proudly counts almost 70,000 members, followers, and readers from about 160 countries — researchers, students, practitioners, journalists, policy makers, and activists who constantly generate more than 150,000 monthly page views on our sites and social media (Facebook, TwitterLinkedInInstagramWhatsappTumblr, Telegram, and Reddit). Achieving the main goal of our community — that is to disseminate the insights of socio-political research on the economy — would be impossible without your support, participation and enthusiasm. Once again, this year too, the ES/PE blog was ranked one of the top 10 blogs and websites in sociology in the world. Together we maintain this intellectual and public campfire — and I am grateful to you all!
As we all conclude this gloomy year and look forward to clearer skies in the next one, what can be said with certainty is that economic sociology and political economy perspectives and insights will be essentially needed to keep on mulling over, debunking, realizing and, of course, changing. Happy and Transformative New Year!

The 10 most-read posts of 2020:

> Neoliberalism, Varieties of Capitalism, and Coronavirus (by Oleg Komlik, March 10, 2020)

> Polanyi’s Prescience: Covid-19, Market Utopianism, and the Reality of Society (by Margaret Somers and Fred Block, October 16, 2020)

> Ulrich Beck has died. His powerful concept of ‘Risk Society’ is relevant as never before (by Oleg Komlik,  January 4, 2015)

> The Probable Implications of the Coronavirus Crisis — David Harvey, William Davies, Ivan Krastev Adam Tooze, Judith Butler, Radhika Desai; Bruno Latour, James Galbraith, Mike Davis; Slavoj Zizek, Branko Milanovic, David Grossman; Mariana Mazzucato, Eva Illouz, Alain Badiou; Costas Lapavitsas, Katharina Pistor, David Runciman (March-June, 2020)

> “Herd Immunity” is Epidemiological Neoliberalism (by Isabel Frey, April 24, 2020)

> Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders!

> If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money

> Political Economy After Neoliberalism: A Manifesto for New Thinking  (by Neil Fligstein and Steven Vogel, October 8, 2020)

> Rest in Power, David Graeber – the Activist-scholar who Lived the Coupling of Theory and Praxis  (by Oleg Komlik, September 4, 2020)

> Albert Einstein on the Power of Ideas and Imagination in Science (by Oleg Komlik,

The 10 least-read posts of 2020 which, in my biased view, deserve more attention: 

> The Politics of Fiscal Policies: Lessons across Time and Space

> Age of Greed and Neoliberal Creed: the Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America

> Religion, “Free trade” and Faithful Globalization: Producing a Sacred Vision of the Economy

> Minilateralism: How Trade, Soft Law and Financial Engineering are Redefining Economic Statecraft

> How did the East India Company become the most powerful business‬ in history? the most powerful business‬ in history?

> Fiscal Embeddedness: Tax Policy as an Institutional Tool of State-building

> Challenging Governance Theory: From Networks to Hegemony 

> Law and Labor in the American Political Economy

> The Value of Nothing and Market Society

> Economist the Creator 😉 

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‘American Bonds’ by Sarah Quinn — The Best Book in Economic Sociology and Political Economy for 2020

The ES/PE global academic community is pleased to announce the granting of the Best Book in Economic Sociology and Political Economy Award for 2020 to Sarah Quinn‘s superb, enlightening, thoroughly researched and engagingly written American Bonds: How Credit Markets Shaped a Nation. Congratulations!!
The year of 2020 marks an exceptional achievement for Professor Quinn (University of Washington). Her outstanding, insightful, and interdisciplinary  treatise won three additional major prizes: the Zelizer Book Award given by the American Sociological Association’s Economic Sociology section, the Alice Amsden Book Award presented by the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, and Honorable Mention for the Theory Prize by the American Sociological Association’s Theory section. 
Professor Quinn once noted that “part of [her] desire to write the book was always to try to be able to use the tools of sociology to demystify finance.” While reading this excellent scholarly work, one can easily see that this mission was brilliantly accomplished.
Drawing from a mix of original archival research and secondary sources, American Bonds examines the evolution of securitization and federal credit programs in the US from the early post-Revolutionary years to the 1960s, concurrently looking  at the macro and micro levels. The book shows in compelling detail that since the Westward expansion, the US government has used financial markets to manage America’s complex social divides, and  lawmakers and bureaucrats have turned to land sales, home ownership, and credit to provide economic opportunity without the appearance of market intervention or direct redistribution of wealth. Over time, government officials embraced credit as a political tool that allowed them to navigate an increasingly complex and fractured political system, affirming the government’s role as a consequential and creative market participant. Neither intermittent nor marginal, credit programs spurred the growth of powerful industries, have been used for foreign policy and and military efforts, and were promoters of venture capital investment and mortgage securitization. Quinn’s American Bonds astutely demonstrates the intricate ways in which credit has been a powerful tool of the American statecraft and how the state has been intrinsically involved in marketcraft.
At the end of this must-read book (published by Princeton University Press in 2019) Quinn leaves us with important reflections derived from her historic research, which are essentially relevant to our immediate present and upcoming future: 

“With each crisis, Americans face anew the question of how to organize finance. With each crisis, choices are guided by long-esteblished institutions. And with each crisis, there nevertheless exists the potential for something new to emerge. Whatever lies ahead, the organization of credit – and the social bonds that it entails – will be decided on two levels: the specific exchanges we allow and how we delimit the role of finance in the political economy. A cleared-eyed look at both means that in considering any credit policy we must ask: Should this issue be resolved through finance? And if it is resolved through finance, what divisions of profit and risks, and what divisions of opportunities and obligations, should be built into these structures?” (Quinn 2019: 212)


The past Alice Amsden Book Award recipients:

2019: Ching Kwan Lee, The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa. University of Chicago Press, 2018

The past Zelizer Best Book Award recipients:

2019: Monica Prasad, Starving the Beast: Ronald Reagan and the Tax Cut Revolution. Russell Sage, 2018

2018: Yuen Yuen Ang, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. Cornell University Press, 2016

2017: Marc Steinberg, England’s Great Transformation: Law, Labor, and the Industrial Revolution. University of Chicago Press, 2016

2016Gabriel Abend, The Moral Background: An Inquiry into the History of Business Ethics. Princeton University Press, 2014

2016: Debbie Becher, Private Property and Public Power for Eminent Domain in Philadelphia. Oxford University Press, 2014

2015: Martin Reuf, Between Slavery and Capitalism: The Legacy of Emancipation in the American South. Princeton University Press, 2014

2014: Ofer Sharone, Flawed System, Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences. University of Chicago Press, 2013

2013: Lyn Spillman, Solidarity in Strategy: Making Business Meaningful in American Trade Associations. University of Chicago Press, 2012

2013: Monica Prasad, The Land of Too Much: American Abundance and the Paradox of Poverty. Harvard University Press, 2012

2012: Greta R. Krippner, Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance. Harvard University Press, 2012

2010: Terence G. Halliday and Bruce G. Carruthers, Bankrupt: Global Lawmaking and Systemic Financial Crisis. Stanford University Press, 2009

2008: Donald MacKenzie, An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets. MIT Press, 2006

2006: Olav Velthuis, Talking Prizes: Symbolic Meaning of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art. Princeton University Press, 2005

2006: James R. Lincoln and Michael L. Gerlach, Japan’s Network Economy: Structure, Presistence and Change. Cambridge University Press, 2004

2004: Harrison White, Markets from Networks Networks: Socioeconomic Models of Production. Princeton University Press, 2002

2004: Sarah Babb, Managing Mexico: Economists from Nationalism to Neoliberalism. Princeton University Press, 2001

2003: Neil Fligstein, The Architecture of Markets: An Economic Sociology of Twenty-First-Century Capitalist Societies. Princeton University Press, 2002

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Corporate Bodies Have No Soul

William Hazlitt (1778 – 1830) was an English essayist, writer, and social commentator. He is considered one of the greatest masters of the English language, but despite his very high standing among historians of literature and art, his work is currently little read. However, the following poignant sentences of this brilliant polemicist and critic of pomp and power are resonant now as they were 200 years ago. 

Corporate bodies have no soul. Corporate bodies are more corrupt and profligate than individuals, because they have more power to do mischief, and are less amenable to disgrace or punishment. They feel neither shame, remorse, gratitude, nor goodwill. [In corporate bodies] the principle of private or natural conscience is extinguished in each individual (we have no moral sense in the breasts of others), and nothing is considered but how the united efforts of the whole (released from idle scruples) may be best directed to the obtaining of political advantages and privileges to be shared as common spoil. […]
The refinements of private judgment are referred to and negatived in a committee of the whole body, while the projects and interests of the Corporation meet with a secret but powerful support in the self-love of the different members. Remonstrance, opposition, is fruitless, troublesome, invidious; it answers no one end; and a conformity to the sense of the company is found to be no less necessary to a reputation for good-fellowship than to a quiet life. Self-love and social here look like the same; and in consulting the interests of a particular class, which are also your own, there is even a show of public virtue. […] In the meantime they eat, drink, and carouse together. They wash down all minor animosities and unavoidable differences of opinion in pint bumpers; and the complaints of the multitude are lost in the clatter of plates and the roaring of loyal catches at every quarter’s meeting or mayor’s feast. The town-hall reels with an unwieldy sense of self-importance; ‘the very stones prate’ of processions; the common pump creaks in concert with the uncorking of bottles and tapping of beer-barrels: the market-cross looks big with authority. Everything has an ambiguous, upstart, repulsive air. Circle within circle is formed, an imperium in imperio: and the business is to exclude from the first circle all the notions, opinions, ideas, interests, and pretensions of the second. Hence there arises not only an antipathy to common sense and decency in those things where there is a real opposition of interest or clashing of prejudice, but it becomes a habit and a favourite amusement in those who are ‘dressed in a little brief authority,’ to thwart, annoy, insult, and harass others on all occasions where the least opportunity or pretext for it occurs. […] The individual is the creature of his feelings of all sorts, the sport of his vices and his virtues—like the fool in Shakespear, ‘motley’s his proper wear’:—corporate bodies are dressed in a moral uniform; mixed motives do not operate there, frailty is made into a system, ‘diseases are turned into commodities.'”

Hazlitt, William. 2016 [1821]. “On Corporate Bodies.” Pp. 123-126 in  Table-Talk: Essays on Men and Manners. HardPress Publishing. 

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