Markets for Collective Concerns, Market Failures, and Policy-making

by Christian Frankel, José Ossandón and Trine Pallesen*

As Foucault (2008) pointed out 40 years ago, the economic thinking of the Ordoliberals in Germany, the Chicago School in the United States, and Austrian economists such as Hayek, represented an important shift in the way social problems are conceived and governed. As these ideas were implemented more widely, the market acquired a new type of function (Dardot & Laval 2013; Mirowski 2013). Markets – or some of the features attributed to markets, such as choice, competition and price – started to be purposely introduced as means to solve pressing collective problems or concerns. Markets became instruments of policy in areas such as health care, public transport, education and environmental pollution. Such markets are the focus of a special issue of Economy & Society we co-edited, titled “Markets for Collective Concerns and their Failures”. We use the term markets for collective concerns to name this particular object of study.
markets for collective concerns and their failuresThe papers in this issue offer careful empirical descriptions of what happens after the implementation of markets for collective concerns. What the research presented in this issue shows is an important transition: from a form of policy-making that assumed that, once implemented, markets work on their own, to situations in which policy-making is understood as continuous market organization. Policy-making becomes the evaluation, diagnosis, design and repair of markets. This new form of governing is the important societal problem this issue helps us to better understand. The ‘organization of markets for collective concerns and their failures’ names the new terrain explored in this issue.
Besides our introductory piece, five contributions comprise this issue. The first four papers are case studies: Ossandón and Ureta study the markets for public transport and health care in Chile; Reverdy and Breslau, the market for wholesale electricity in France; Doganova and Laurent, markets for emissions, sustainable biofuel and clean technologies in Europe; and Neyland, Ehrenstein and Milyaeva, markets for electronic waste and childcare in the United Kingdom. The fifth paper, by Nik-Khah and Mirowski, provides the intellectual context for this important development. They trace the transformation in economics, from a professional consensus that assumed that markets were the opposite of planning, to the current context in which economists claim to be experts in the design of markets.
Despite the differences in terms of their thematic and geographic scope, the inspection of the discourses and practices involved in governing collective concerns with markets show important similarities. First, the different cases of markets for collective concerns have been problematized as failures by the relevant actors in these different fields of inquiry. Even more significantly, the different cases show that failure does not pave the way for the introduction of non-market forms of solving collective problems. Instead, the cases show an important reorientation in the practice of policy-making and the consolidation of new types of policy-making expertise. These experts are not simply market enthusiast; their claim to expertise is that they know how to assess, identify and repair market failures. For the relevant experts in the different cases presented here, the problem of how to make particular markets work well becomes, to use an ANT expression, ‘the obligatory point of passage’. Policymaking becomes market organization.

References:
Dardot, Pierre and Christian Laval. 2013The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society. London: Verso.

Foucault, Michel. 2008The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979. BasingstokePalgrave Macmillan.
Mirowski, Philip. 2013Never Let a Serious Crisis go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial MeltdownLondonVerso.
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* Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School. A corresponding author, José Ossandón: jo.ioa@cbs.dk

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B&B: Hannah Arendt // Research for profit // Neoliberalism and family values // Lessons of 1968 // Sociology of consumption // Index funds and inequality // Alienation and work

This time, especially worth reading and sharing pieces:

> Hannah Arendt: “Revolutions always appear to succeed with amazing ease in their initial stages, and the reason is that those who supposedly “make” revolutions do not “seize power” but rather pick it up where it lies in the streets.” Never before published Hannah Arendt’s essay on poverty, misery, and the Great Revolutions of History. It’s included in Thinking Without a Banister: Essays in Understanding, 1953-1975 — by Hannah Arendt (Schocken, 2018)

> THE change in academic publishing since 1950s was the emergence of profitable publishing houses. A history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research

> “Family Values” is a shared normative project nurtured and used by Neoliberalism and Social Conservatism since the 1970s to change policies and societies. A review of Melinda Cooper’s Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism (MIT Press, 2017) that challenges the idea that neoliberalism privileges atomized individualism over familial solidarities, and contractual freedom over inherited status.

> Relationships with Working Class struggles was important to 1968 movements, but the cultural break made by them have facilitated a shift towards the individualism of the market and “Free Market”-led politics — by Hilary Wainwright

> Shedding light on differential consumption in the Global North and South; consumption and inequality, and consumer citizenship by deploying relational, material culture and status-based analyses. A review of Joel Stillerman’s The Sociology of Consumption: A Global Approach (Polity, 2015)

> Index funds and Shareholder Value approach increase inequality: the passive investing in various ways shifts costs to consumers, it makes the rich richer, and the poor poorer — by Frank Partnoy, an author of Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets

> The Employment – a striking short animation on work and alienation

Infectious Greed How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets

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Jacques Chirac: Tony Blair is New Labour, which means he’s several steps to the right of conservatives

“[Jacques Chirac] was a conservative. He was intrigued by New Labour. Sometimes he used to say “Tony Blair is New Labour, which means he’s several steps to the right of me”.” (Tony Blair, September 26, 2019)

jacques chirac tony blair

These excellent books elaborate on this matter:
— The Political Economy of New Labour: Labouring under False Pretences? by Colin Hay (Manchester University Press, 1999)
— New Labour and Thatcherism: Political Change in Britain, by Richard Heffernan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000)
— New Labour, New Language? by Norman Fairclough (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000)
— Transforming Local Governance: From Thatcherism to New Labour, by Gerry Stoker (Palgrave, 2003)
— A Brief History of Neoliberalism, by David Harvey (Oxford University Press, 2005)
— The Thatcherite Offensive: A Neo-Poulantzasian Analysis, by Alexander Gallas (Haymarket Books, 2017)

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The Social Structure of Prices

‏‏The Social Structures of the Economy

It is not prices that determine everything,
but everything that determines prices.” (Bourdieu 2005: 197)

Bourdieu, Pierre. 2005. The Social Structures of the Economy. Polity Press

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Great academic opportunities: 25 calls for papers, 6 PhD fellowships, a post-doc position, a job opening, a grant

Dear ES/PE community member, see below an abundant list of  great academic call for papersopportunities: 25 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some are partially or fully funded), 6 PhD fellowships, a post-doc position, a job opening, a research grant — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with January 15 — February 10 deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

CfP: “Development Today: Accumulation, Surveillance, Redistribution“, the  32nd meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), 18-20 July 2020. Keynoters: Ruha Benjamin, Jayati Ghosh, Xiao Qiang, Guy Standing, Stephanie Barrientos. DL: January 24. 
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 has 19 Research Networks focusing on various aspects of the socio-political study of the economy, and during the meeting will be held 17 thematic mini-conferences.
On the day before the conference will be conducted the SASE Early Career Workshop. Participants will have conference fee waived; their accommodation will be paid; and they will be also eligible to apply for a contribution to their travel costs. DL: January 24
SASE also invites nominations for the Alice Amsden Award for an outstanding book in the study of socio-economics. DL: January 24

> CfP: “More than Money: Art in Organizations“, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), 20-21 March, 2020.  No fees; funding to cover the costs of travel and/or accommodation could be allocated. DL: January 15

> CfP: “Regulatory Governance: Who Carries the Conversation?“, the 2020 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Regulatory Governance, University of Exeter (UK), 24-26 June 2020. DL: January 15

> CfP: “Business History in a Changing World“, the 24th Congress of the European Business History Association, Nagoya (Japan), September 10-12, 2020. DL: January 15

> CfP: “Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought“, the European Society for the History of Economic Thought conference, University of National & World Economy (Sofia, Bulgaria), 28-30 May, 2020. DL: January 15

> CfP: “Convenience”, the Society for Economic Anthropology’s meeting, Notre Dame University (Indiana, USA), Apr 30 – May 2, 2020. The SEA has a limited amount of travel funding to support students and un/under-employed PhDs. DL: January 15

> CfP: Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Conference, University of Freiburg (Germany), September 21-22, 2020. Keynoters: Julia Leventon, Damien Giurco, Stefanie Hellweg. DL: January 15

> CfP: “Economic and Business History at the Crossroads“, the 45th Economic and Business History Society Annual Conference, Atlanta (Georgia, USA),  May 28-30, 2020.  The keynoter: Anne McCants. DL: January 15

> CfP: “Capital, Migration and the Left“, the 56th International Conference of Labour and Social History, Linz (Austria), 24-26 September 2020. DL: January 19

> CfP: “Bubbles and Crises; Mayhem and Misery; Corruption and Disruption“, The Association of Business Historians conference, Nottingham University Business School (UK), 26-27 June 2020. DL: January 20

> CfP: “Economy of Promises and Sociology of Expectations”, Science and Technology Studies conference, University of Montreal (Canada), August 24-29, 2020. Keynoters: Kornelia Konrad, Pierre-Benoît Joly. DL: January 24

> CfP: “The Neoliberal State Reconsidered: Risk, Surveillance, and the Future of Global Capitalism”, the 3rd Annual Chicago Comparative Historical Social Science Conference,  Northwestern University (Evanston, IL, USA), April 9-10, 2020. Keynoter: Sarah Quinn. DL: January 24

> CfP: “Historical Perspectives on Finance and Corporate Governance“, Doctoral Workshop, Queen’s University Belfast (UK), ​25 June 2020. there will be a limited number of scholarships to cover the costs of accommodation. DL: January 29

> CfP: “What’s Next? Critical Political Economy at the End of Neoliberalism?“, The Critical Political Economy Research Network of the European Sociological Association workshop, University of Limerick (Ireland), 19 – 20 June 2020. No fee. DL: January 31

> CfP: “Multinational Companies in Turbulent Times: Strategies, Norms, and Experimentation across Borders” conference, Seoul National University (Republic of Korea), 16-17 April 2020. No conference fee; two nights’ accommodations and meals will be covered. DL: January 31 

> CfP: The International Network for Social Network Analysis conference- SUNBELT, Paris (France), 2-7 June, 2020. There are specific CfPs for organized sessions.  Keynoters: Claire Bidart, Alain Degenne, Michel Grossetti. DL: January 31

> CfP: “Fridrich Engels in Eastbourne“, a conference on any aspect of Engels’ life, work, intellectual and political legacy, University of Brighton – Eastbourne campus (UK), 23 – 24 June, 2020. The keynoters: Tariq Ali, Terrell Carver. DL: January 31

> CfP: “Money on the Left: The Green New Deal Across the Arts & Humanities“, the 2nd Modern Money Network Humanities Division conference, Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA, USA), April 24-26, 2020. Keynoters: Lua Kamal Yuille, Astra Taylor. DL: February 1

> CfP: “Female Economies”, the 4th Women, Money, and Markets conference, University of Zurich, 10-12 June 2020. Keynoters: Nancy Henry, Emma Hart, Victoria Bateman, Lana L. Dalley. DL: February 4

> CfP: “Inequalities and Their Subjective Perceptions in a Changing World“, the 14th International German Socio-Economic Panel User Conference, German Institute for Economic Research (Berlin, Germany), July 9-10, 2020. Keynoters: Paul K. Piff, Eva Sierminska. DL: January 31

> CfP: “Sustainable consumption, everyday life and social change” early-career workshop, University of Helsinki (Finland), April 2-3, 2020. Keynoters: Mikko Jalas, Mika Pantzar. Meals will be offered; travel and accommodation costs will be covered up to certain amount. DL: January 30

> CfP: “Health and Poverty“,  Salzburg Conference in ​Interdisciplinary Poverty Research, University of Salzburg (Austria), 2-3 July 2020. Keynoters: Monica Magadi, Melissa Parker, Eva Selenko, Stefania Ilinca. DL: January 31

> CfP: “Social and Cultural Mechanisms behind Innovation” conference,  Inter-University Center, Dubrovnik (Croatia), 5-7 May 2020. DL: February 1

> CfP: History of Economics Society Conference, Utrecht University (The Netherlands), 18-21 June 2020. The HES provides support for Young Scholars in the form of free registration, banquet tickets, and a year’s membership. Some of the Young Scholars awardees will also receive $500 to cover travel and other costs. DL: February 1

> CfP: “Interrogating Social Imaginaries Examining Narratives of Past, Present and Future in Consumer Culture“, Consumer Culture Theory Conference,  University of Leicester (UK), 25-28 June 2020. DL: February 10

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> Two postdoctoral positions in Economic Sociology at The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG), Köln (Germany). DL: January 31

PhD Fellowships:

> Doctoral Fellowship at the Max Planck Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies, Paris (France). Proposals in economic sociology, political economy, economic or political history are invited. DL: January 20

> PhD studentship “Embracing the gig economy? Choice versus necessity in late-life-working“, Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK). DL: January 24 

> PhD researcher in Economic Geography to work on sustainable finance and its opportunities and challenges for regional transition economies, Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (Luxembourg). DL: January 31

> PhD Fellowship in Organizations and Social Change track to study the intersection of business and society, College of Management, University of Massachusetts Boston (USA). DL: February 1 

> PhD opportunity “Fair Work: Job Quality and Fairness in UK and Welsh Workplaces“,  Cardiff University (UK). DL: February 3

> PhD Fellowship in Political Economy of Inequality, Institute for Socio-Economics, Universität Duisburg-Essen (Duisburg, Germany). DL: February 7

Job openings:

> Full-time Senior/Researchers (PhD holders) in employment-related issues, The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, Kalamazoo, Michigan (USA). The position is open until filled.

Research Grant:

> The Upjohn Institute invites proposals for Early Career Research Awards to carry out policy-related research on labor market issues. DL: January 24

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B&B: Amartya Sen // Tulipmania // Sadie Alexander // Surveillance and Authoritarianism // The Mafia and weak state // New Working Class // ‘Smart’ city serves business

This time, especially worth reading and sharing articles:

> There are two types of critiques of capitalism – moral and material. Amartya Sen combines the two effectively, demonstrating that the separation of our moral lives from our material concerns are inconceivable — by Tim Rogan, the author of The Moral Economists: R H Tawney, Karl Polanyi, E P Thompson and the Critique of Capitalism

>The 17th century Dutch Tulip Mania was irrational massive craze, a first modern financial bubble crashing the economy. NO. Anne Goldgar reveals that it was a limited story of conspicuous consumption in the network of wealthy elites. Read more in her book Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age

> Sadie Alexander was the first African-American woman to receive PhD in economics (1921). She studied the devaluation of household work and saw a federal full-employment program as economically vital — an interview with Nina Banks

> A “smart” city is a privatized city and ‘living laboratory’ controlled by businesses continuously amassing data, while the municipalities protect them due to “competition-sensitive information” 

> In an environment with weak state at the 19th century, landholders in Sicily turned to the Mafia to combat popular socialist movements. The rise of the Mafia reduced literacy, provision of public goods and political competition — by Daron Acemoğlu, Giuseppe De Feo, Giacomo De Luca

> “Surveillance and the Global Turn to Authoritarianism” is the topic of Surveillance & Society issue (edited by David Murakami Wood) with 31 short pieces, covering 25 countries and various angles of the Authoritarian Turn in economy, technology, and policy

> The New Working Class: Average earnings for adjunct professors and home health care workers are the same. To understand the US electorate requires a new understanding of the shifting and re-forming working class

moral economists amartya sen karl polanyi

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Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics

As we are living in the present when tragedy and farce mix and make the past look oracular, a new history of Capitalism must be introduced for the sake of the future.
The new year brought with it a much-needed and much-anticipated new academic journal. It’s an intellectual pleasure to welcome an inaugural issue of Capitalism: A Journal of History & Economics, led by Marc Flandreau, Julia Ott, Francesca Trivellato and Carolyn Biltoft, and published by University of Pennsylvania Press. “A New Economic History is emerging. It needs a new journal”, writes Marc Flandreau in the opening essay. I enthusiastically embrace this statement.
capitalismThe Journal aims to feature contributions on the historical dimensions of markets, capitalism, political economy, and economic thought in general, and on power, race, class, gender, the environment in particular. Flandreau defines the Journal as follows: “Being founded at a particular juncture of the intellectual debate when various schools of thought, spanning diverse intellectual, political, and methodological sensibilities, all recognize the importance of material life, Capitalism builds on the need to engage beyond disciplinary borders. And by fostering this original form of pluralism, it meets the current demand of the scholarly community.”
The first issue brings together authors from diverse backgrounds that have written about various periods, subjects and regions—using different methods. The first issue is free and open-access, and I hope this right approach regarding knowledge accessibility will be applied also in the upcoming Journal’s publications. Benediximus!

Table of Contents – Volume 1(1): 

Foreword: Border Crossing, by Marc Flandreau

The New History of Finance Capital, by Barry Eichengreen

John Law’s Capitalist Violence, by Joan Dejean

Sugar, Slavery, and Wealth: Planter Nathaniel Phillips and the Williams Hypothesis, by Karl B. Koth and John Serieux

Tax Preference As White Privilege, by Julia Ott

Pricing Moses Montefiore, by Marc Flandreau

Against Scholarly Enclosures: Reconsidering the Art and Economics of Review, by Carolyn N. Biltoft

Daniel Bell’s Dilemma, by Stefan Eich

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Top 10 Most-read Economic Sociology and Political Economy Posts of 2019

As 2019 (already) comes to an end, I rounded up the top 10 most-read posts of the year on the Economic Sociology and Political Economy community blog. You are welcome to (re)read and share them. And, let’s try something new, this list are followed by the 10 least-read posts of the year which, in my biased view, deserve more attention. 
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 and thinking. Thanks for every ‘like’, ‘share’ 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 65,000 members, followers, and readers from about 150 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 (FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, Instagram, Telegram, Reddit and Tumblr). 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. Recently, 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 (turbulent) year and look forward (with hope) to 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. More work ahead…
Most importantly, I wish you and your loved ones Happy & Bright New Year!

The 10 most-read posts of 2019:

> How to theorize a research? Richard Swedberg’s The Art of Social Theory is a unique book about the craft of theorizing

> Foucault: Neoliberalism is not laissez-faire, but permanent vigilance, activity, and intervention

> Finance, Class, and the Birth of Neoclassical Economics: The Marginalist Revolution Revisited

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

> Albert Einstein on the power of ideas and imagination in science

> Erik Olin Wright has contributed to making utopias real

> Political Economy: Origins, Meanings, Changes

top10> Economics to Sociology Phrasebook 🙂

> Thatcherism’s greatest achievement

> Robert Solow’s sarcastic economics

The 10 least-read posts of 2019:

> Progress for the Poor

> Who are the Liberals? 🙂

> Sociology of Markets and Economic Sociology

> Debt Matters: Inequality and Foregone Medical Care

> Art and Money. Artists no longer simply create art, they make markets

> The Future of Good Jobs and the Labor Unions in the Service Economy

> Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of 19th Century America

> Gendering the Recession: Media, Culture and the Reemergence of Gender Tropes

> What is money? Can we grasp the current state of the economy as a crisis of money itself?

> Accountants’ Truth and Economic (Im)morality: Knowledge and Ethics in the Financial World

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The 2019 SASE’s Alice Amsden Book Award goes to ‘The Specter of Global China’ by Ching Kwan Lee

The winner of the inaugural Alice Amsden Book Award of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics is The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa, by Ching Kwan Lee, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Alice Amsden Book Award honors the best book that breaks new ground in the study of economic behavior and/or its policy implications with regard to societal, institutional, historical, philosophical, and ethical factors.
The Specter of Global ChinaExplaining its decision, the Book Award Committee (Mari Sako, Wolfgang Streeck, Jonathan Zeitlin) wrote: “Ching Kwan Lee’s book is an impressive theoretical and empirical achievement in socio-economics. Rooted in six years of ethnographic study of copper mines and construction sites in Zambia, Lee presents a compelling case for “varieties of global capital”, distinguishing between Chinese state capital and global private capital in terms of business objectives, labor practices, management ethos, and political engagement with Zambia. The result is a nuanced understanding of Chinese investment in Africa, that goes beyond a simplistic image conveyed in the media. Lee’s account is highly readable, empathetic with real voices of people she encountered, and wonderfully reflexive throughout and in her appendix titled ‘an ethnographer’s odyssey’. With wide-ranging policy implications for economic development, this scholarly work represents the very best of comparative sociology and ethnography.”

The deadline for the 2020 Alice Amsden Book Award is January 24more details here.

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Franz Oppenheimer — The Law of Transformation and Social Market Economy

by Stephen I. Ternyik*

Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943) was a German-Jewish physician, economist and sociologist, mainly known for his noted book The State: Its History and Development Viewed Sociologically (1908/1920) and for laying the foundations for Zionist cooperative settlements.
Franz OppenheimerFranz Oppenheimer would become the first full professor of sociology in Germany (1919-1929, Frankfurt University), but his research interest into ‘social laws’ was awakened as practicing physician (1884-1895) in the poverty ridden zones of the German capital. His first publication on communal settlements (Oppenheimer 1896) for poverty alleviation formed the foundation of his sociological ambition which is marked by the methodical application of natural science, i.e. the circumspection or caution of a careful physician. The nucleus of this study project contains Oppenheimer’s transformation law for cooperative human communities, most probably based on the Prussian colonial experiments with village-like settlements in the Eastern territories which worked well for centuries, until the dawn of industrial capitalism.
Around the years of 1900, Oppenheimer developed a significant empirical and historical influence on Theodor Herzl who immediately realized the immense scientific input for Zionist practice; Oppenheimer used all available public Zionist channels, private enterprises like the ‘Jüdische Orient-Kolonisations gesellschaft / Shaare Zion’ (Jewish Society for the Colonization of the Orient) and profound interpersonal communications with Zionist leaders to further his cooperative ideas about communal settlements to alleviate poverty and misery. Oppenheimer viewed communal settlements and working cooperatives as an effective tool to better the living conditions for a mass of people, under the economic conditions of earning wages in the capitalist monetary system. Applying his scientific knowledge to the special case of the Jewish people, he preferred to test his approach on the German countryside in Prussia or Galicia (Austria) via a pilot model community for later dissemination in the land of Israel. The Kishinev Pogrom (1903) – an anti-Jewish massacre  that aroused worldwide attention on the persecution of Jews, converted Franz Oppenheimer into a committed Zionist who wanted to help his fellow Jews (in Eastern Europe) out of misery and persecution.
Oppenheimer’s Law of Transformation can be read as the paradox of cooperative economics and it refers to macro-social dynamics: the beginning of a cooperative group endeavor will end up in a capitalist calculation enterprise or cease to exist as long as the macro-social conditions are based on capitalist monetization and accounting. Knowledge is about predictability and wisdom is about outcome: the later Kibbutzim were from the Oppenheimer viewpoint a survival mechanism which will be inevitably followed by economic means of privatization. 
Oppenheimer’s circumspection is inspired by the caution of the careful physician and the transformative law of communal settlements does not exclude dynamic efficiency, i.e. the successful integration of short-and long-term economic sustainability. Of course, many other social scientists — Nikolai Bukharin, Karl Polanyi, Joseph Schumpeter, and Oskar Lange — have grappled with transformative questions; however, Oppenheimer clearly formulated the prospect that as long as the macro-economic accounting system is governed by private capital calculation, no communal settlement can survive without adapting this economic model. Oppenheimer’s circumspection is confirmed by the material history of capitalism. All of our economic accounting systems derive from the 5000 years old Sumer-Babylonian calculation model to expand privatized property via monetary exchange, credit and interest; industrial capitalization, since about 500 years, extended technically the ancient feudal limitations of natural land and human labor, but our economic formulae are socially still based on property relations and transactions, measured in monetary units. It is also interesting to note that Oppenheimer viewed the institution of a state as a means to protect the economic interests of the dominant property owners (rentiers), i.e. as a social reflection of the ownership structure on a given territory.
One other important decisive impact of Oppenheimer’s scientific approach is the social market economy in Germany which was modelled by Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977) who was a doctoral student of Franz Oppenheimer and who pragmatically transformed the deep insights of his teacher into political practice; such is the interplay of social science and human praxis. The eminent intellectual influence of Theodor Hertzka (1845-1924) and Henry George (1837-1897) on Oppenheimer, concerning the decisive role of land rent and monetary interest on economic production, must be mentioned here, to remember the central reform ideas of free land (free from rent) and free money (free from debt) before the turn of the century. Oppenheimer’s circumspection, however, enabled him to look around the corner of macro social dynamics and to envision a free market society; cooperative economics is a tool for universal human emancipation and he was aware of the fact that such social transformations do come in gradual instalments, i.e. social systems evolution cannot be forced, but has to be studied profoundly and human action has to be cautious, to avoid nonvoluntary side effects.
The paradox of cooperative economics can be balanced by improving the accounting methods of human exchange; land (natural resources), money (measurement unit for calculations/payments/exchange) and economic valuation (price formation) are vital factors of human living chances that depend on the basic principle of resource allocation efficiency. The cooperative idea of communal settlements as an alternative lifestyle has a definite future for a critical mass of people, especially under the participatory agenda of ecological democracy for land, labor and money, but we should indeed try to formulize the transformative laws as cautious working tools and memorize Oppenheimer’s circumspection for prospective enterprises.

References:
— Barkai, Haim. 1999. “Franz Oppenheimer’s transformation law and the recent trend towards privatization in the Kibbutz”. In Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Franz Oppenheimer und die Grundlegung der Sozialen Marktwirtschaf, edited by Elke V. Katowksi, Julius N. Schoeps and Bernhard Vogt. Berlin: Philo.
— Russell, Raymond, Robert Hanneman and Shlomo Getz. 2015. The Renewal of the Kibbutz: From Reform to Transformation. New Jersy: Rutgers University Press.

— Oppenheimer, Franz. 1896. Die Siedlungsgenossenschaft. Leipzig: Duncker/Humblot.
— Palgi, Michal and Shulamit Reinharz (ed). 2014. One Hundred Years of Kibbutz Life. NJ: Transaction.
— Polanyi, Karl. 1944.  The Great Transformation. London: V. Gollancz.
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* Stephen I. Ternyik is an economist, educator and entrepreneur who pursued studies in social science in Berlin, Tokyo, New York and Jerusalem.

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Great academic opportunities: 19 calls for papers, 6 postdocs, 6 jobs, 4 visiting positions, PhD fellowship

Dear ES/PE community member, see below a list of  great academic call for papersopportunities: 19 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some are partially or fully funded), 6 post-doc positions, 6 job openings, 4 visiting positions, a PhD fellowship — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with December 6 – January 6 deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Organizing Sustainably: Actors, Institutions and Practices“, the 15th Organization Studies Workshop, Crete (Greece), 20-3 May 2020. DL: December 6

> CfP: “Bridging Divides: Challenging Colonialism and Anti-blackness“, the Society for Socialist Studies conference, University of Western Ontario (Canada), June 1-3, 2020. A limited number of travel grants are available. DL: December 6

> CfP: “The Role of Economic Experts in Crisis-Prone Societies” workshop,  University of Naples (Italy), 15-18 April 2020. DL: December 10

> CfP: “Social Inequalities and Cohesion”, the European Consortium of Sociological Research annual conference, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), July 1-3, 2020. Keynoters: Alice Goisis (University College London), Joscha Legewie (Harvard), Borja Martinovic (Utrecht). DL: December 13

> CfP: “Expected Inequalities and Unintended Symmetries“, the 8th Unintended Consequences workshop, University of Warsaw (Poland), 11-12 May 2020. Keynoters: Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison. DL: December 15

> CfP: “Degrowth: Strategies for Social-Ecological Transformation” conference, University of Vienna (Austria ) May 29 – June 1, 2020. DL: December 15

> CfP: The 2nd International Conference on Policy Diffusion and Development Cooperation, Federal University of São Paulo (Brazil), 25-27 May, 2020. Global South scholars have 40% fee reduction. Keynoters: Claire Dunlop, Benjamin Cashore, Eugene McCann. DL: December 15

> CfP: “From the Great Transformation to the Eco-social Transition. New Solidarities in Action“, the 4th EMES-Polanyi International Seminar, EHESS (Paris, France), March 19-20, 2020. DL: December 15

> CfP: “Capitalist Realism: 10 Years On” symposium, University of Huddersfield (UK), February 15-16, 2020. Keynoter: Sukhdev Sandhu (NYU). Free registration for presenters without institutional funding. DL: December 16

> CfP: “New Perspectives on Interwar Financial and Banking Crises” conference,  Paris School of Economics (France),  June 29-30, 2020. Organisers can cover the accommodation and travel costs. DL: December 16

> CfP: “The Politics of Finance – Creditworthiness, Credibility and Reputation on Global Markets” interdisciplinary conference, International History Department, Graduate Institute Geneva (Switzerland), 18-19 June 2020. Funding opportunities are available to defray travel and accommodation expenses. DL: December 20

> CfP: “(Post-)Neoliberalism in Latin America? Ruptures, continuities and alternatives of the progressive governments” workshop, University College of London (UK), January 23, 2020. DL: December 22

> CfP: “Capitalism and Contention”, a conference on the intersection of political economy and social movement studies, Department of Sociology, New York University (NY, USA), 13-15 March 2020. Keynoter: Vivek Chibber (NYU). DL: December 31

> CfP: “Culture and Economics“, the 5th International Economic Philosophy Conference, University of Warsaw (Poland), 24-26 June 2020. Keynoters: Mary Morgan (LSE), Raquel Fernández (NYU), Kacper Pobłocki (Warsaw). DL: December 31

> CfP and artworks: “Economia – The Limited Edition” conference aims to invent new avenues for playful and imaginative future developments in economics, economy and alternative value systems, Natlab, Eindhoven (The Netherlands), 15-16 May 2020. Limited funding available to support the travel and accommodation. DL: December 3

> CfP: Labor Research and Action Network (LRAN) National Conference, Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA, USA), March 12-13, 2020. DL: January 3

> CfP: “Economic Development” conference organised jointly by the Japanese Association for Development Economics and Centre for Economic Policy Research, University of Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan), 18- 19 April, 2020. DL: January 5

> CfP: “Flowing Markets“, the 6th Interdisciplinary Market Studies Workshop and PhD pre-workshop day, Sciences Po Grenoble (France) Grenoble,  3-5 June, 2020. Keynoters: Marieke de Goede, Brett Christophers. DL: January 6

> CfP: The Cambridge Journal of Economics conference in heterodox economics and related social science disciplines, Newnham College, Cambridge (UK), 8-9 September 2020. DL: January 6

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Regional Political Economy (one year; regarding Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America), Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance (NCGG) at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. DL: December 9

> Postdoctoral Research Associate, Globalization and Governance Program (one year; international and comparative political economy, global governance, globalization), Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance, Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. DL: December 9

> Postdoctoral Reseacher to join the project on the socio-economic aspects of market emergence for quantum computing (prior understanding of quantum computing or quantum physics is not expected), Department of Management Studies, Aalto University (Helsinki, Finland). DL: December 15

> Postdoctoral fellow in Ageing and Social Change (up to 2 years), Linköping University (Sweden). DL: December 15

Postdoctoral position “Resolving Precariousness: Advancing the Theory and Measurement of Precariousness across the Paid / Unpaid Work Continuum” (one year), Centre for Sociological Research, Unit Work and Organisations, KU Leuven (Belguim). DL: December 15

> Postdoctoral Scholar, Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality, the CUNY Graduate Center (Manhattan, NYC). DL: December 22

PhD Fellowships:

> PhD Scholarship in “Capitalism and Labour Exploitation: the Role of Accounting in the Maritime Labourers’ Market“, University of Greenwich (UK). DL: December 16

Job openings:

> Research Fellow, Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship, Aston University (Birmingham, England, UK). DL: December 18 

> Assistant Professor in Feminist Political Economy (Tenure Track), Department of Political Science, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (USA). DL: December 28

> Assistant Professor in Social Networks and Inequalities, Department of Sociology,  Hong Kong Baptist University. DL: December 31

> Professor in Urban Studies within Economic Geography / Economic History / Economic Sociology areas, Malmö University (Sweden). DL: January 3

> Lecturer in Political Economy (tenured, full-time), Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney (Sydney, Australia). DL: January 6

> Lecturer in International Political Economy at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen’s University Belfast. DL: January 6

Visiting positions:

> Visiting Fellowship Program in Regional Political Economy (one year; regarding Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America), Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance (NCGG) at Princeton University‘s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. DL: December 9

> Visiting Globalization and Governance Fellowship Program, (one year; international and comparative political economy, global governance, globalization), Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance, Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. DL: December 9

> Visiting Fellowships in the History of Political Economy for senior scholars / junior scholars / final-year PhD students at Center for the History of Political Economy, Duke University (NC, USA). DL: January 6

> USC Berggruen Visiting Fellowships (one-year) in areas related to “Great Transformations: Future of Capitalism” projects, University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA, USA). DL: January 6

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Is the United States the Champion of Global Finance or its Victim? A New Look at the Fed’s Low-inflation Policy

By Arie Krampf*

My article “Monetary Power Reconsidered: The Struggle between the Bundesbank and the Fed over Monetary Leadership”, recently published in International Studies Quarterly, contributes to the burgeoning literature that challenges the US-hegemony hypothesis in the global financial sub-order. It follows the path of several scholars, who question whether the shape of the international monetary and financial system has been consistent with the US interests and whether the US had the capacity to set rules for the world.  In his book Capital Rules: The Construction of Global Finance, Rawi Abdelal, one of those scholars, argues that the US-hegemony hypothesis is “the most important misconception of the conventional account” regarding the role of the United States. The United States, he argues, played an essential role in pushing for financial liberalization, however, “neither the U.S. Treasury nor Wall Street has preferred or promoted multilateral, liberal rules for global finance. The US approach to globalization has been neither organized nor rules-based, but rather ad hoc” (Abdelal 2007: 3). In my article, I demonstrate this general claim by tracing the struggle between the United States and its G5 allies regarding the consolidation of a particular type of rule: the rule of very low inflation targeting.
Rather than summarizing the argument—for a summary, one can have a quick look at the abstract and the conclusion of the article—I would like to take the opportunity here to invite the readers into the “editing room” and the research process, sharing with them the rejected hypotheses I had to leave on the floor before reaching a convincing argument, consistent with the historical findings.
***
The origin of this project is in a historical puzzle. While going over published and unpublished documents from the 1980s and the 1990s, I found that until 1989, there was no consensus among central bankers and economists regarding the desirability of very low inflation targeting. The lack of consensus was surprising, because since 1991 or 1992 economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) talk about a “consensus” on very low inflation targeting as fact of nature. The discursive change was radical, immediate and pervasive.
“Something” must have happened between 1989 and 1991, I thought, that caused this drastic discursive change. Nevertheless, I was not sure what kind of event to look for.

My first intuition was to follow a constructivist approach and search for the ideational entrepreneurs that changed the discourse. The first suspects were the central bankers and economists. It is not indisputable that, since the 1970s, academic economists had promoted the idea of independent and conservative central banking, so it was reasonable to assume that those ideas penetrated the circle of central banking practitioners. On that account, I searched for the traces of the process.
However, I could not find any evidence supporting this mechanism of change. The findings suggested, instead, that until 1989 the economists at the IMF and BIS advocated a more balanced approach to inflation. They believed central banks should watch for various economic indicator simultaneously: inflation, growth, employment, the exchange rate and the balance of payment. Also, the position of central bankers diverged: France and Japan favored an outward-oriented monetary policy, while the Fed, the Bundesbank and the Bank of England favored a more inward-oriented policy, focusing on the inflation level. There was no indication that before 1990 any of the key central bankers was influenced by the academic literature on independent central banking, besides perhaps in the United States.
Given the “heterogeneity” of the discourse, I had to rule out the constructivist mechanism. Central bankers, indeed, operated as an
epistemic communityas the constructivist theory often suggests—but until 1989 the community was far from sharing the same policy ideas. Those findings did not sit very well with the predictions of the constructivist theory.
Once I realized that the constructivist approach does not solve the puzzle, I resorted to a power-based mechanism of change. A power-based mechanism suggests that the consensus on low inflation emerged because powerful actors reformulated their interests and preferences. But why would they do that? One possible cause is the hierarchical structure of the international monetary system, with the US dollar at the top of it. Within the power-based literature, the common argument is that throughout the second half of the twentieth century, the United States—or the Fed—was the single most powerful actor in the international arena. Therefore, if a global consensus consolidated it must have been an outcome of the US power.
Two types of problems undermine the US-hegemony hypothesis. First, surprising as it might sound, there is no economic or political-economic theory that can explain why the United States would have liked other countries to target very low inflation. We have, rather, very persuasive rationales which explain why the United States benefited from operating in a global environment of weak currencies. During the 1980s, the interest rate differentials between the Fed and the other central banks enabled the United States to maintain its role as a monetary leader and to attract foreign capital which financed its domestic investment and trade deficit. The low inflation regime made it more difficult for the United States to attract foreign capital.

Moreover, the US was the single most powerful actor. Therefore, it had a preference for pragmatism and ambiguity, which enabled it to realize its power and to shift the burden of adjustment to its peers. Most notably, during the 1980 the United States made successful attempts to pressure Germany (and the Bundesbank) to exercise a more accommodative monetary policy (see the Plaza Accord). There is no reason why the United States would have liked to change this status-quo.
The second problem was more crucial: going over the archival material, particularly the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which is the decision making body of the Fed, I found “smoking gun” evidence that the United States—the Fed and the Treasury—were very clearly not enthusiastic, to say the least, about the tightening of monetary policies among the G5 partners. The documents show that Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Fed, who is known for its conservative monetary position, rather than encouraging other central banks to follow his legacy, was highly concerned by the global “conservative tide,” as he put it.
Fed Inflation BundesbankTherefore, if not the economists nor the United States, there was only a single other usual suspect to examine: the Bundesbank – the central bank of Germany.

The Bundesbank is well known for its preferences for tight monetary policy. Moreover, there is evidence that the Bundesbank—and Germany—was not happy with the not-conservative-enough policies of its peers in Europe and worldwide. Hence, it was reasonable to assume and not too hard to establish that the Bundesbank would have liked other central banks to embrace a more conservative approach. However, did the Bundesbank have the capacity to achieve this goal, given the opposition of the United States—the Fed and the Treasury—and of other powerful countries in the Groups of 5?
At that point, I needed a theory of monetary power, which could explain how the second most powerful country (or a central bank) in terms of monetary power—Germany—could force the single most powerful country—the United States—to absorb the burden of adjustment.

We need to roll back a little bit.
What is monetary power? The structural theory of monetary power, which is mostly associated with the work of Benjamin Cohen (2006), argues that the United States is by far the most powerful country in terms of monetary power, because of its size and the extensive use of the dollar as an international currency. Monetary power, in this context, implies that when two states face current account imbalances, the more powerful country can use its monetary power to shift the burden of adjustment to the less powerful one, which has to change it domestic policies accordingly. This theory does an excellent job in explaining the relative stability of the international monetary and financial system over the long-run, or in other words, the US monetary hegemony. But it fails to explain why, in certain circumstances, the single most powerful actor loses.
Contrary to Cohen, other scholars—for example, David Lake, Rawi Abdelal, Andrew Walter and Jonathan Kirshner—reminds us that the geopolitical hierarchy of money depends not only on the size of the economy, on trade and the current accounts, but also on capital flows. States compete over financial flows: capital flows can lift countries from the ashes, and they can also enslave them and make them addicted to foreign investment. When a country is able to divert financial flows to its own advantage, it has institutional monetary power.
Countries that have superior institutional monetary power can divert financial flows so as to shift the burden of adjustment to their peers. However, and this is the crucial point, institutional monetary power is much more susceptible to idiosyncratic historical events than the conventional structural monetary power. Therefore, institutional monetary power can explain “fluctuations” in the global hierarchy of money in the short-run.
The concept of institutional monetary power was the missing link that enabled me to explain how Germany (or the Bundesbank) could shift the burden of adjustment to the United States and make the latter accept the low inflation regime, despite its opposition to this idea and superior structural monetary power. During the period between 1989 and 1991 unique historical circumstances enabled the Bundesbank to take a go-it-alone move and raise the interest rate dramatically and rapidly (from 2 to 6 percent within less than two years), irrespective of the international repercussions. Given liberalized financial markets and rapid capital flows, the Bundesbank’s move triggered a cross-national sequence of events. First, the Bank of France started to follow the Bundesbank and then the Bank of Japan. By the 1990, the Fed found itself operating in a completely new environment. Rather than leading the G5 central banks, it had to follow them.
The conservative tide among the central banks was therefore interpreted by the Fed as an offensive move against the dollar. FOMC members complained about the “box we’re in with respect to the interactions between domestic interest rates, foreign interest rates… and the exchange rate.” The Fed was in a deadlock: it could not raise the rate and protect the dollar because of the sluggish domestic economy and it could not lower rate because of the international circumstances. The way out of the box required a fiscal reform: the Treasury had to make a drastic cut in budget deficit and public spending, which would lower the US “addiction” to foreign capital. After the administration failure to persuade the G5 to adopt a coordinated expansive fiscal policy, the US sitting president, George H. W. Bush, had to break one of his key election promises (“read my lips”), and implement a severe fiscal reform, cut the budget and raise taxes, a policy which was followed by his Democratic successor, Bill Clinton.
The article, therefore, makes two key contributions. The theoretical contribution lies in the distinction between structural monetary power and institutional monetary power. Whereas the former explains the stability of the international monetary and financial system, the latter explains how historical events, which affect financial flows, can lead to long-lasting institutional changes. The historical contribution is the claim that the United States, which is often perceived as the champion of financial globalization, was in practice of victim of it.
***
The theoretical and historical analyses as presented above are likely to be of interest to monetary aficionados. But the article has some broader implications for IPE scholars, who are interested in the bigger picture. What the article demonstrates, in broad brush strokes, is that the international regime, which emerged in the 1990s—the neoliberal regime—was not the result of the US power but rather the result of its relative weakness, of more precisely, its weakening. The United States had to accept an arrangement, which was not its first choice. This claim deserves some clarification.
A common argument is that the neoliberal order was internationalized by United States and that this process was consistent with its interests (Strange 2009; Helleiner 1994; Cohen 2006; Harvey 2005). However, we also know that during the 1980s the hegemonic position of the United States was declining (Keohane 2005). Therefore, as of the 1980s, the United States had to account for the preferences of its allies in the G7 and to coordinate its moves more closely with them. It means the United States capacity to set rules of the world was in decline.
From this perspective, the neoliberal regime was not consistent with the preferences of the United States. The neoliberal regime, as emerged in the 1990s, was a rules-based regime. The rules approach replaced the previous approach of coordination, characterized by pragmatism (Mügge 2011) and ambiguity (Best 2005). Pragmatism and ambiguity enabled the United States to exploit its superior negotiation power. The neoliberal rules, on the other hand, restricted the capacity of the United States to exploit its superior power
.
This somewhat counter-intuitive claim has the merit of clarifying recent puzzling developments in the international arena. In recent years the US, under President Donald Trump, has made significant steps, which have been interpreted as attempts to dismantle the global rules-based order. The new doctrine of the US raised questions among its traditional allies on the other side of the Atlantic. The President of the European Council Donal Tusk asked how come the international rules-based order is being challenged, “not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor: the US”. Tusk, according to the US-weakening hypothesis, receives a very simple answer/reply: the United States challenges the rules-based order because it has never really wanted it.

Bibliography:
— Abdelal, Rawi. 2007. Capital Rules: The Construction of Global Finance. Harvard University Press.
— Best, Jacqueline. 2005. The Limits of Transparency: Ambiguity and the History of International Finance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
— Cohen, Benjamin J. 2006. “The Macrofoundations of Monetary Power.” Pp. 31-50 in International Monetary Power, edited by David M. Andrews. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
— Gruber, Lloyd. 2000. Ruling the World: Power Politics and the Rise of Supranational Institutions. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
— Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
— Helleiner, Eric. 1994. States and the Reemergence of Global Finance: From Bretton Woods to the 1990s. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
— Keohane, Robert O. 2005. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton University Press.
— Mügge, Daniel. 2011. “From Pragmatism to Dogmatism: European Union Governance, Policy Paradigms and Financial Meltdown.” New Political Economy 16 (2): 185–206. 
— Strange, Susan. 2009. “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony.” International Organization 41 (04): 551–74.
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* Dr. Arie Krampf is a senior lecturer in Political Economy and International Relations at the Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo. He recently published the book The Israeli Path to Neoliberalism: State, Continuity and Change (Routledge, 2018). For his other publications see: www.ariekrampf.com.

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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.
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* 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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