Probably the best “Acknowledgments” ever (4)


best Acknowledgments everThis work has been carried out despite the economical difficulties of the authors’ country. The authors want to overall remark the clear contribution of the Spanish Government in destroying the R&D horizon of Spain and the future of a complete generation.” (Padilla et al. 2014: 475)

Contrary to this “Acknowledgments” section, cleverly used by the researchers to submit an alarming, justified, and serious protestation, see here, here and here the past posts featuring humoristic and witty scholars’ “Acknowledgments” 🙂

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Robert Solow’s sarcastic economics

robert solowRobert Solow, one of the most honored and influential economist of the second half of the 20th century, has been involved throughout his career in a series of polemics with several neoliberal economists in academia and government. Along with substantial assertions and explanations, Solow often used to spice his arguments with witty and sarcastic stings, such as:

“Suppose someone sits down where you are sitting right now and announces to me that he is Napoleon Bonaparte. The last thing I want to do with him is to get involved in a technical discussion of cavalry tactics at the battle of Austerlitz. If I do that, I’m getting tacitly drawn into the game that he is Napoleon. Now, Bob Lucas and Tom Sargent like nothing better than to get drawn into technical discussions, because then you have tacitly gone along with their fundamental assumptions; your attention is attracted away from the basic weakness of the whole story. Since I find that fundamental framework ludicrous, I respond by treating it as ludicrous — that is, by laughing at it — so a’s not to fall into the trap of taking it seriously and passing on to matters of technique” (Arjo Klamer’s Conversations with Economists, 1983, p. 146)

“Another difference between Milton [Friedman] and myself is that everything reminds Milton of the money supply. Well, everything reminds me of sex, but I keep it out of my papers.” (Solow 1966: 63)

“In principle, there is no reason why expectations about future inflation cannot be changed dramatically overnight. All that is needed is some gesture, some conviction, some promise, perhaps something slipped into the water supply. I drift into sarcasm, but only because sometimes the Reagan Administration’s representatives seem to adopt that line: it hardly matters what we do – if only you will believe us, your belief will make itself come true.” (Solow 1982: 23)

“The group at this conference is fairly uniform… A nonprofessional would find this whole meeting very mysterious. The discussion is very abstract; it is full of insiders’ language; people break into hysterical laughter for incomprehensible reasons. There are also some people here who are more directly concerned with practical matters. There are even more such people out in the streets of Edgartown, and those are people who could not care less about rational expectations or even about irrational expectations or identifying restrictions, whatever those words mean… I would like to assure the practical people in this room and also the ones out in the streets of Edgartown that although the battles that are fought in conferences like this appear to be fought with antique pop guns, the bullets are real and they may soon be fired at you by the Federal Reserve.” (Solow 1978: 203) 

Solow, Robert M. 1966. “Comments.” Pp. 62-66 in Guidelines: Informal Controls and the Market Place, eds. George P. Shultz and Robert Z. Aliber. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Solow, Robert. 1978. “Summery and Evaluation.” Pp. 203-9 in After the Phillips Curve: Persistence of High Inflation and High Unemployment; Proceedings of a Conference Held at Edgartown, Mass. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Solow, Robert. 1982. “Does Economics Make Progress?” Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 36(3): 13-31. (open access)

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Money fills our body to the brim,
creates our shape, our taste, the so-called self-esteem.
The shiny teeth earmark our polished fame,
the slickness crystallized since money rinsed our shame
into a sewer of repressed self-blame.

                                                                      (by Oleg Komlik)

Money Creates Taste - Jenny Holzer

“Money Creates Taste” by Jenny Holzer (2007)

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Economic Sociology, Homo Economicus, and Performativity of Economics

It is never too late, nor too early, to reread and contemplate a good theory.
The Laws of the Markets Michel CallonFor example, to mull over Michel Callon’s programmatic statement about the performativity of economics, presented two decades ago in the introduction to The Laws of the Markets:

“Underscoring the complexity of economic phenomena, a complexity to which economic theory with its cold and disincarnated view of homo economicus cannot do justice, sociology strives to give this abstract agent a bit more soul — the life and warmth he lacks — by mobilizing notions such as those of value, culture, rules or passions. Pareto dreamed it, economic sociology makes it. Yet, as we suggested, economic agents do not need be enriched. If they manage to become richer it is because, on the contrary, they were cooled, reduced and framed, particularly by economics! What we expect from sociology is not a more complex homo economicus but the comprehension of his simplicity and poverty. […]
Yes, homo economicus really does exist. Of course, he exists in the form of many species and his lineage is multiple and ramified. But if he exists he is obviously not be found in a natural state — this expression has little meaning. He is formatted, framed and equipped with prostheses which help him in his calculations and which are, for the most part, produced by economics. […] It is not a matter of giving a soul back to a dehumanized agent, nor of rejecting the very idea of his existence. The objective may be to explore the diversity of calculative agencies forms and distributions, and hence of organized markets. The market is no longer that cold, implacable and impersonal monster which imposes its laws and procedures while extending them ever further. It is a many-sided, diversified, evolving device which the social sciences as well as the actors themselves contribute to reconfigure.” (Callon 1998: 50-1)

Callon, Michel. 1998. “Introduction: The embeddedness of economic markets in economics.” Pp. 1-57 in The Laws of the Markets, edited by Michel Callon. Oxford: Blackwell. (Open access)

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B&B: Economics Nobel fools you // Moral limits, market, and science // Standardization of consumption // Capitalism cannot reform itself // Racial wealth gap // On the origin of cooperation

Economics is not a science> Glorifying economists, Nobel Prize aims to create the impression that economics is about discovering timeless truths. Don’t let them fool you — urges Joris Luyendijk

> Religious traditions toward capitalism impact scientists’ attitudes toward the commercialization of science — by Jared L. Peifer

Standardization of consumption and the senses: How cellophane changed the way we shop and buy food — by Carmen Nobel

Through trade and its norms and institutions that stabilized it, cooperative interactions between nonrelatives became possible on huge scales — by Kevin N. Laland

> “Today I have reached my conclusion,” wrote W. E. B. Du Bois in 1961, “Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction. No universal selfishness can bring social good to all.” On W. E. B. Du Bois’ Revolutions — by Phillip Luke Sinitiere

The color of money and the racial wealth gap: the myths of the “Free Market” failed and fail black communities — a 7 min podcast with Mehrsa Baradaran

It was the failure of the imperial monetary system, not the Opium Wars, that brought China low in the 19th century — argues Werner Burger 

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The IMF’s Reconstruction of Economic Orthodoxy since the Crash

by Ben Clift*

Analysing how the International Monetary Fund (IMF) contributes to prevailing understandings of sound economic policy reveals how economic orthodoxy is historically contingent, and throws into relief the malleability of economic policy credibility. These indirect IMF attempts to exercise power are important yet understudied. Fund views evolve through a complex and political process which can be best understood by grasping the organisational and sociological dynamics of the Fund’s internal workings and its hierarchical structure. My new book The IMF and the Politics of Austerity in the Wake of the Global Financial Crisis IMF and the Politics of Austerity in the Wake of the Global Financial Crisis(Oxford University Press, 2018) delineates how the IMF uses its knowledge bank, expertise and mandate for surveillance and coordination to act as a global arbiter of legitimate policy. It finds that which economic ideas are drawn on by the IMF, and how, to inform and underpin their economic policy analysis and recommendation has important implications for governments’ economic policy space.
Those who can make authoritative knowledge claims, such as the Fund, enjoy a privileged position within the intersubjective process of constructing economic rectitude. Indeed, the IMF has long been in the business of developing and corroborating a prescriptive discourse regarding appropriate (and more importantly inappropriate) economic policy. My research analyses how the IMF’s approach to fiscal policy has evolved since 2008, and the role played by the IMF in shaping advanced economy policy responses to the global financial crisis and the Eurozone crisis. As such it makes a novel contribution to understandings of the Fund’s role within the politics of austerity.
The book is interested in the politics of austerity, and one of its central aims is to explore the assumptive foundations underpinning economic policy positions of the Fund and others since the crash. It reveals in novel depth how the premises of Fund economic policy thinking have been revisited by key Fund figures including Managing Directors and the Chief Economist– often incorporating somewhat unconventional elements from within the Fund’s repertoire of economic thinking. There has been a notable rehabilitation of Keynesian insights, economic ideas which have long been accreted into IMF thinking and practice.
The approach taken in the book pulls back the veil on the politics of economic ideas both within the IMF and in the IMF’s interactions with major advanced economy governments. It combines in-depth content analysis of the Fund‘s vast intellectual production with searching interviews with a wide range of key Fund economists and senior management involved in the development and advocacy of Fund fiscal policy recommendations. Integrating close textual analysis with extensive interviews, it comes close to inhabiting the “lived in” space of IMF debates.
In doing so, it reveals the repertoire of IMF economic ideas, accreted into its practice over many decades, to be broader than generally appreciated. Fund economists see themselves as non-doctrinaire, pragmatic policy economists – drawing a broad array on ideas and schools of thought (from the Keynesian and New Keynesian to the decidedly anti-KeynesianReal Business Cycle’ theory arising out of New Classical Economics) according to the policy context and economic conjuncture. One striking finding is the broad range of policy ideas and positions the IMF has both advocated and reconciled to (New Consensus) mainstream economics. For this reason, understanding Fund ideational evolution as paradigm change has limited explanatory value.
The book substantially revises our understanding of the IMF’s economic policy thinking and its effects on the room to manoeuvre enjoyed by governments. The IMF is not beholden to an outmoded ideology in the Washington Consensus, nor is it simply applying a one-sized fits all Neo-Classical model to macroeconomic policy debates. Rather, the Fund is engaged in pragmatic and reflexive processes of what John Campbell callsbricolage’, its ideas evolving to retain relevance to and ‘traction’ within pressing economic policy debates.
The analysis opens the ‘black box’ of internal Fund debates and practices, and situates these within internal IMF power relations to develop a novel theory of ideational change in international organisations. This delineates institutionally mediated cognitive filters – such as the Fund’s scientific and technocratic culture and its existing body of economic policy knowledge – as a precursor to specifying mechanisms of change. It highlights how these cognitive filters shape how actors make sense of their environment and their role as pragmatic policy economists. These theoretical underpinnings of the book enable it to unearth how a reflexive Fund sees itself as increasingly ‘open-minded’ and keen to learn lessons and correct short-comings of past crisis responses. Establishing the conditions of ideational evolution through mechanisms of change helps explain how prevailing economic ideas within the IMF can and do change. It also accounts for which economic ideas prevail and why.
Another theme of the book is that economic ideas, even when espoused by technocratic and self-avowedly ‘scientific’ institutions like the IMF, are always rooted in understandings of the principles of political economy – normatively-informed views of how the economy and policy work. These relate to crucial issues such as the nature, propensities and appropriate roles of state and markets, and what economic policy can and should do. It comes down taking a position on a spectrum of views about how far the market, left to its own devices, will likely deliver the most efficient outcomes, and to what extent (and under what conditions) public power should intervene to improve the growth and economic stability.
It is, broadly speaking, the same ideological debate which pitched Keynes against neo-classical economic orthodoxy in the 1930s. This underlines the political role played by the Fund in its efforts seeking to shape economic policy conduct in selecting and foregrounding particular economic ideas and insights. As noted above, economic orthodoxies and conventional wisdoms are built upon contingent social constructions of economic assumptions.
Another contribution of the book is to provide a framework for understanding the successes and failures of IMF efforts to wield influence. Fund actors were motivated by a desire to be on the ‘right side of history’ and to counter what they saw as the mistaken premises of austerity. Had their counsel been heeded more closely, the ‘Great Recession’ may not have been so prolonged or deep. Yet the IMF was limited in its ability to gain ‘traction’ amongst policy-makers, and induce changes to policy settings of governments. This led to policy approaches, in the Fund’s view, overly focused on debt and deficit reduction to the detriment of economic stabilisation, growth, and equity.
Ben Clift is Professor of Political Economy and Deputy Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University or Warwick, UK. His wider research interests lie in comparative and international political economy, and he has published widely in leading politics and political economy journals on the IMF, French and comparative capitalisms, the politics of economic ideas, economic policy autonomy, and the British and French politics of austerity.

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Free to Choose: Hayek’s Road to Fascism

Friedrich Hayek – one of the protagonists and scholastic machinists of Neoliberalism, quite clearly positioned himself in regard to the following subject matter:

No doubt an American or English “Fascist” system would greatly differ from the Italian or German models; no doubt, if the transition were effected without violence, we might expect to get a better type of leaderAnd, if I had to live under a Fascist system, I have no doubt that I would rather live under one run by Englishmen or Americans than under one run by anyone else. Yet all this does not mean that, judged on our present standards, our Fascist system would in the end prove so very different or much less intolerable than its prototypes.” (von Hayek, Friedrich. 2001. The Road to Serfdom. Routledge. P. 139)

hayek neoliberalism fascism

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Great academic opportunities: 12 calls for papers, 3 jobs, 2 summer schools, PhD stipend, a postdoc, a grant, an award

Dear ES/PE community member, see below a list of great call for papersacademic opportunities: 12 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some are fully or partially funded), 3 job openings, 2 summer schools, a postdoc position, a doctoral fellowship, a grant, and an award — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with June 22July 20 deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Systemic Risk“, Dynamics of Socio-economic Systems conference, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne (France), 9-12 October, 2018. DL: June 25

> CfP: “Sustainable Development of our Communities: The Nexus between Scholarship, Industry and Government” conference, Knight Institute of Education, Orlando, Florida (USA), March 12 – 15, 2019. DL: June 29

> CfP: “Money, Debt, and Innovation” symposium, University of Brighton (UK), September 14, 2018. DL: June 30

> CFP: “Political Culture and the History of Knowledge: Actors, Institutions, Practices” conference, German Historical Institute, Washington DC (USA), June 6-8, 2019. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered. DL: June 30

> CfP: “10 Years after the Crash. What have we learned?“, The 22nd Macroeconomic Policy Institute and German Confederation of Trade Unions conference, Berlin (Germany), 25-27 October, 2018. DL: June 30

> CfP: “Forms of Power in Economics: New perspectives for the Social Studies of Economics between networks, discourses and fields” workshop, University of Giessen (Germany), 6-8 December, 2018. DL: June 30

> CfP: “Industrial vigilantism, strikebreaking and patterns of anti-labour violence, 1890s-1930s” conference, University of Oxford (UK), 23-24 October 2018. Funds are available for presenters to support travel and accommodation expenses. DL: June 30

> CfP for Journal of Institutional Economics’ special issue on “Institutional Analysis of Gift”. DL: June 30

> CfP: “Critical approaches to competition, market regulation and (international) economic governance” workshop, The University of Liverpool (UK), 7-8 September 2018. DL: July 2

> CfP: “Labour Market Liberalisation after the Lehman Crisis: France, Germany and Japan in Comparative Perspective” workshop, German Institute for Japanese Studies, Tokyo (Japan), December 14-15, 2018. Accepted paper givers will receive an allowance to help pay for travel and accommodation costs. DL: July 9

> CfP: “Concentrations: power, wealth, status, and information” conference, The Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies, Santiago (Chile). The keynoters are Wolfgang Streeck, Luc Boltanski, Yves Dezalay and more. DL: July 11

> CfP: “Photography, with or without capitalism” symposium,  INHA, Paris, December 18 – 19, 2018. DL: July 12

Job openings:

> Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Economics and Peace, Sydney (Australia). DL: June 22

> University Assistant (prae doc) to teach and encompass research assistance in economic sociology, the Department of Economic Sociology, University of Vienna (Austria). DL: July 2

> LSE Fellow (finishing PhD in Sociology) to teach in MSc Economy, Risk and Society programme, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics. DL: July 9

Post-doctoral positions:

> A post-doc researcher in global economic and social history, the Rural and Environmental History Group, Wageningen University. (The Netherlands). DL: June 29

PhD Fellowships:

6 PhD Positions in Slavery, Labour, and Dependency Studies, Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, University of Bonn. DL: July 20


> The Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations and the Intergenerational Foundation award the Intergenerational Justice Prize (EUR 10,000) to essay-writers on the topic “How attractive are political parties and trade unions to young people?”. DL: July 1


The William T. Grant Scholars Program supports career development for promising early-career scholars and funds five-year research in programs, policies, and practices that reduce inequality in youth. DL: July 5; reference letters are due by June 27

Summer Schools:

> CfP: Summer School on Interest Group Politics, European Consortium for Political Research, University of Exeter (UK), July 18-25, 2018. The fee covers tuition, lunches and single occupancy en-suite accommodation with breakfast. Travel grants are available for two students who are entirely self-funding. DL: July 2

> CfP: “Smart Technologies – a New Industrial Age? Approaches to Radical Innovation and Economic Transformation“, the 6th Graz Schumpeter Summer School, University of Graz (Austria), September 9-13, 2018. The tuition fee includes course accommodation for five nights, full board, and participation in social events.  DL: July 15

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B&B: Geographies of tax evasion // Artifices of the Chicago School // Socialism in the US // Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy // German corporate entrepreneurs // Mortgage fraud

What do we know about the geographies of tax evasion and tax havens? The essence and details – by Manuel B. Aalbers

The artifices of the Chicago School of economics, the limits of  neoliberalism,  and moving beyond the laws of the market — an interview with Will Davies 

debsparty A century ago, Socialism appeared as an actual political alternative in the US. Why and how did it happen and end? — by Melvyn Dubofsky

> “An ontology for the digital age?” Jamie Morgan’s review of David Elder-Vass’ Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy

German immigrants and the promotion of corporate entrepreneurship in 19th Century America — by Robert Wright

> Nearly 25% of 2003-05 residential mortgage loans in the US contained one or more indications of fraud. The rates of mortgage fraud were higher in areas with a larger share of loans originated by independent mortgage companies and higher levels of racial segregation; it was less prevalent where government-sponsored enterprises purchased a larger share of the loans sold in secondary mortgage markets. 

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Was Karl Polanyi wrong? Land, labor, and private authority in the global economy

by Tim Bartley*

Rules without Rights Land Labor and Private Authority in the Global EconomyKarl Polanyi famously argued that land, labor, and money are “fictitious commodities.” They cannot be fully subjected to the dictates of the market without spurring backlashes that seek to re-embed them in society.  It is easy to find examples at the present moment. The project to make the world into “one big market” has fueled populist backlashes in the U.S., UK, and Europe, especially of a far-right, exclusionary variety. In parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, massive investments in agriculture, land speculation, and urban expansion are generating varied forms of resistance to “land grabs” that displace local people. And as the value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies spikes and plummets, the fictitious character of money has taken on a new level of intrigue.
Theoretically, scholars have taken Polanyi’s basic insight in several directions. For economic sociologists, the “always-embedded market” has become the most prominent riposte to the assumptions of economics. For labor scholars, Polanyi’s diagnosis resonates with the Marxist argument that labor is a “special commoditybecause the product and the seller are ultimately inseparable. Meanwhile, scholars of land and environment have revised the Polanyian framework in making sense of nature, neoliberalism, and accumulation by dispossession.
But rarely do these lines of research meet. Workers and factories have long been the province of sociologists, as well as scholars of industrial relations, business, and political science. Land and environment have more often been the domain of anthropologists and geographers—as well as environmental sociologists and rural sociologists whose work is often geared more toward these other fields than to the rest of the discipline.
The burgeoning body of research on corporate responsibility, sustainability, and transnational governance is similarly segregated. On one side are studies of corporate social responsibility for labor standards in apparel, footwear, and electronics factories. On the other side are studies of sustainability standards for timber, coffee, seafood, biofuels, and a number of other products. There are a handful of excellent comparisons, but especially when it comes to consequences “on the ground,” most of what we know comes from studies of a single industry, initiative, or issue area.
In my new book, Rules without Rights: Land, Labor, and Private Authority in the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2018), I sought to get past the land-labor divide—and to show what a comparison of the two can offer to economic sociology and political economy more broadly. The book looks at the consequences of corporate responsibility and sustainability projects by comparing two fields—sustainable forestry (in the timber, paper, and furniture industries) and fair labor (in the apparel and footwear industry). This includes multi-stakeholder initiatives like the Forest Stewardship Council and Social Accountability International as well as a variety of other initiatives and company-specific codes.  In both cases, a form of “transnational private regulation” has expanded as large retailers and brands (such as IKEA, The Home Depot, H&M, and Nike) have pushed standards for sustainability or fairness through their global supply chains.
To look at the implementation of these rules, I focused on two key countries—Indonesia and China—where I interviewed a variety of practitioners and assembled or analyzed other data. This allowed me to consider how transnational standards are shaped by different forms of domestic governance—a new democracy in one case and a resilient form of authoritarianism in the other. I found some intriguing cross-country differences (described in part here) and developed a general critique of private regulation and its “hope of transcendence” (reviewed in part here). But I also found some important differences between land and labor standards.
First, despite some problems and blindspots, the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards have remained relatively stringent and challenging for forest managers to meet. These pertain not only to logging practices and protection of ecosystems but also to land rights and community claims. The closest analogue on the labor side, Social Accountability International’s SA8000 standard, suffered from weak oversight in China (allowing at least a few dismal factories to get certified and little in the way of systematic differences from uncertified factories) and a puzzling lack of application in Indonesia, where its standards should have been easier to implement. Other labor standards were either similarly compromised or narrow in their focus. The fields of fair labor and sustainable forestry, I argue, are different in ways that existing theories—including prominent forms of field theoryare not well-poised to explain.
Second, despite the Forest Stewardship Council’s comparative rigor, its standards on the rights of workers were almost never implemented or carefully audited. Auditors rarely even noted that timber workers’ rights to organize were legally restricted in China and routinely trampled in Indonesia. The difference, then, is partly about land and labor as issues, not only about initiatives or fields.
So was Polanyi wrong? Are land and labor inherently different in ways that would account for these differences in transnational governance? Some would say so, arguing that environmental issues are more “technical” or more open to win-win solutions than are labor issues, where distributional conflicts are central. But these answers are hard to sustain as one looks closely at sustainability standards, which often traverse deep distributional conflicts over land and natural resources.
Ultimately, Rules without Rights argues that the observed differences between land and labor have more to do with the power of watchdogs inside and outside multi-stakeholder initiatives, the mobility and visibility of industrial operations, and the framing of labor and environment relative to the public good. (See especially the latter half of chapter 2.) Polanyi was right to see land and labor in parallel, but we should now go further in unpacking globetrotting versus place-based industries and ask why “common good” frames have been so frequently embraced for environmental issues and rejected for global labor issues.
* Tim Bartley is a Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis.  In addition to his new book, he has an article on “Transnational Corporations and Global Governance” forthcoming in the Annual Review of Sociology and a new project on the ethics of big data analytics in the private sector.

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