Giddens: We are suffering from ‘cosmopolitan overload’ and a huge task lies before us – to create responsible capitalism

by Labinot Kunushevci*

From the editor: The following interview with a distinguished British sociologist and political thinker Lord Anthony Giddens is interesting from various perspectives. The interview is part of the forthcoming book by Labinot Kunushevci featuring his conversations with renowned social scientists. The emphases here are mine.

 How would you describe the importance of sociology, and what is the role of sociologists in the social emancipation, especially in the ‘century of changes’ we are living in? Do you think sociology should function as part of the positivist paradigm, or should it be more reflexive in relation to history and social reality?
Giddens: The prime task of sociology is to reflect upon the origins and consequences of the rise of modern industrial civilisation and its spread across the world. As such its main focus is upon the past two or three centuries, but of course there has to be a comparative perspective: hence the overlap of sociology with anthropology is quite strong. Positivism is a non-starter so far as sociology is concerned, since its relationship with its subject matter – human behaviour – is inherently reflexive. Sociological ideas, if they are at all interesting, become incorporated into the world they seek to describe and to some extent restructure that world.
LK: What would you say about the media, the development and sophistication of technology in this era of Globalization? Is Globalization bringing us more opportunities or more risks, and what is the type of society we are going to create in the future in an already globalized world?
Giddens: Globalization – the interdependence of societies across the world – is a key feature of Modernity. Over the past three hundred years, globalisation has been driven by two main influences – the economic (and military) expansion of the West; and the intensifying of communication. The two processes are closely related. The rise of printing from the eighteenth century onwards made possible the emergence of the modern state, and facilitated the development of far flung-empires. The rise of electronic communication massively accelerated these processes, but eventually meant they became more genuinely global – not so centred in the West. The coming of the digital age has intensified processes of globalisation and driven them deeply into our personal lives too.
LK: In your opinion, what are the structural and cultural changes brought by globalism in the modern era, especially to the transitional societies of the Post-Socialist bloc and Balkan region?
Giddens: The result is a world in flux, without parallels in previous ages. Digital communication is often empowering and emancipatory – it is likely to transform medicine, for example. However it has also helped to produce a volatile and uncertain future, and has helped accentuate existing ideological divisions rather than dissolve them. It is difficult to live in a world of intense, everyday cosmopolitanism. We are suffering from ‘cosmopolitan overload’ – there are powerful counter-trends, a return to sectional ideologies and divisions at the same time as the world becomes more intrinsically cosmopolitan. Thus we see a return of nationalism in many places and a questioning of cosmopolitan values, including the emergence of religious fundamentalism. These forces can be combined in seemingly bizarre ways. Islamic State, for example, is a sort of mediaeval theocracy, but makes use of cutting-edge digital technology to promote its aims. It is hostile to modernity, but deeply embedded in it.
LK: The world we are living in is facing many challenges, one of them is the global migration of population from East to West and from South to North. How would you explain migrations, the main challenges faced by countries affected by it, and what are the challenges of migrants themselves?
Giddens: Hence there is a sense in which we are all migrants now, whether or not we move physically from one part of the world to another. Via digital technology, most of us are in touch on an everyday basis with a diversity of cultures and opinions. Distance is no longer any barrier to instantaneous communication, driven by a vast expansion in computer power. The first smart phone was only marketed about ten years ago. Today there are 2.5 billion smart phones in the world and double that number of mobile phones as a whole. The smart phone in your pocket has more computing power than even a super-computer of fifteen years ago. Physical migration takes many different forms, but normally has a global component. To take an example, about 2 million Philippinos are living and working in other countries around the world. The large majority are women and children. They use digital means to support global families – networks of spouses and other relatives stretching around the world. Of course, many migrants from poorer countries are not so sophisticated and are fleeing oppression, such as the many thousands now trying to cross from Latin America into the US, or those fleeing the conflicts in the Middle East. Real tragedies are unfolding here on an everyday basis.
LK: Knowing the global challenges and risks: nuclear weapons, inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts, the increasing extremism, the climate change, etc., which one, in your opinion, is threatening the global peace the most? Is there any balance between the opportunities offered by the Modernity in one side and the real threats on the other?
Giddens: We live in a world that has moved ‘off the edge of history’ at the same time as it remains deeply embedded in it. By this I mean that today we face risks that no other civilisation has to deal with – such as climate change, the massive growth in world population, or the existence of nuclear weapons. Some of these risks are existential: they are threats to the very continuity of the industrial order as it spreads across the face of the earth. We cannot say which are the ‘most threatening’, since the true level of risk is by definition unknown. There is no past time series to go on as there are with more traditional risks.
At the same time we have opportunities, as collective humanity, that go massively beyond what was available in previous ages, not just for material advancement but for the spiritual enrichment of our lives. I call this a ‘high opportunity, high risk society’ – in which it is almost impossible in advance to know what the relation between these two factors will turn out to be. This problematic relationship is today an elemental part of the human condition. This is not a post-modern world in the sense in which that term is usually used – to refer to the dissolution of reason and of potentially universal values. Rather, a battle is being fought almost everywhere between such values and sectional divisions of various sorts.
LK: What makes you think that we are not living in the post-modern era, but we are still living the high Modernity?
Giddens: Our personal and even intimate lives are being transformed by the changes running through world society. Here I would stick with the main themes of my book Modernity and Self-Identity, although some of the processes I described there have become further radicalised. In a world of almost infinite sources of possible information the self becomes a reflexive project. All of us have to develop a narrative of self – a story line that holds our lives together, against the backdrop of a world in flux. Tradition and custom are no longer there to do the job: they themselves are invented and reinvented. As Modernity advances not just identity but the body becomes shaped by these forces, in complicated and contradictory ways. Thus obesity today is becoming a global phenomenon, with massive implications for health. About a billion people across the world today are radically overweight, not only in the prosperous countries, but in many developing economies too. At the same time roughly the same number are undernourished, suffering from malnutrition or even at risk of starvation. And among the most affluent, the cultivation of the body takes a completely opposite form – people devote many hours to fitness and exercise training, often to the point of obsession.
LK: What changes has Modernity brought with the development of expertise and the stimulation to trust on them? How much does this contribute in creating a ‘technocracy’, which ‘devours’ the spontaneity, freedom, equality etc., which in the same time serve as fundamentals of modernity?
Giddens: ‘Technocracy’ does not seem to me the main barrier to our chances of successfully mastering the bundle of opportunities and risks we have created in modern civilisation. Rather, the influences I have described still operate in a world driven in some large part by the exigencies of market capitalism, now itself radically globalised and penetrated by the digital revolution. Almost all money has now become electronic, for example, and can be transmitted instantaneously across the world in a way that was never possible before. The world economic order is driven in fundamental ways by the actions of consumers on the one hand and the global companies – including financial ones – on the other. Most of these processes do not pass through the democratic systems of states, even the most powerful. This is one reason for the stresses and strains of politics today. Everyone can see that national politicians lack the power to significantly influence some of the major forces influencing our lives. To get elected, they must make promises that they simply cannot deliver upon. Huge inequalities, especially at the very top, have arisen, but it is very hard to contest them, given that capital can be moved around the world so fluidly. Much of the revenue that lies in tax havens has no productive role. Only if they can learn to co-operate collectively will states be able effectively to master these forces. It is an open question how far such collaboration is possible.
LK: Do you continue to embrace the “Third Way Politics”, and is it still current to this day? In this context, how would you explain the world economic crisis? On what premises should we have mechanisms and systems that would help to overcome the challenges of the generation of economic growth? 
Giddens: The global financial crisis – still far from having been fully resolved – reflects many of the features of world society discussed above, even including the gender dimension, given the role that ‘charged masculinity’ played in the aggressive behaviour of those playing the world money markets. However, there is a further key factor: the role of neoclassical economic theory. No other academic discipline has ever had such a world historical role before. It has driven the world economy and its radical subjection to unfettered market mechanisms. This observation brings us to general issues of a political nature. There is still a key role for the ‘third way’, understood as an overall political orientation and applied beyond the limits of nation-states. A huge task lies before us – to create a form of responsible capitalism, in which wealth creation is reconciled with social needs, including environmental ones.
LK: To conclude, what about the state of European Union these days and its relations with Balkan countries?
Giddens: The EU, as we all know, is passing through a particularly troubled phase of its evolution. Only about a decade ago, the EU – and its currency, the euro – were widely seen as success stories. Today it floats in a sea of troubles. The euro has not been properly stabilised and its very continuity remains at risk. Trust in the EU among its citizens has fallen, precipitously in some member-states. Populist parties are on the rise almost everywhere. To the east the situation in the Ukraine poses huge risks, at the outer edge even the risk of nuclear conflict. Chaos in Libya and some other states in the Middle East and North Africa poses major risks on the EU’s southern flank. Migrants are flooding across the Mediterranean desperate to find a new life. In spite – and partly because – of these problems, the EU remains an essential to the stability and further development of the European sub-continent. In my book Turbulent and Mighty Continent: What Future for Europe? I try to show why this is so. Only with the further progress of the EU can the problems of the Balkan countries potentially be resolved.
Labinot Kunushevci ( was born in the Republic of Kosova. He holds a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Prishtina and his main field of study is sociology of communications. As part of his project on the intersection of international and national sociology, he conducted interviews with prominent sociologists around the world. Three of them – with George Ritzer, Patricia Hill Collins, and Ibrahim Berisha – were recently published in Global Dialogue – The Magazine of International Sociological Association. 

anthony giddens

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BITS & BRIEFS: Sharing, not “Sharing Economy” // Zelizer on Money // Social movements create unionization // Schumpeter’s “Economics of Socialism” syllabus // Deaths of Despair rise

This time, especially worth reading  – and sharing – articles:

Sharing, not “Sharing Economy”: For most of human history, there was no such thing as private property

> Money is not a social engine, but rather a malleable social product“, Viviana A. Zelizer unmasks the meanings of monies 

Social Movements prompt Labor Unions: local civil rights and gender equality protests lead to unionization — find John-Paul Ferguson, Thomas Dudley, Sarah Soule

> Joseph Schumpeter’s last “Economics of Socialism” syllabus (Harvard University, 1950), taught after his death by Overton Taylor with guest lectures by Wassily Leontief, Walter Galenson, and Alexander Gerschenkron

Deaths of Despair are rising due to the structural lack of opportunities and the disruption of social safety net –  reveal Anne Case and Angus Deaton 

economic sociology political economy
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The Hardship of Accounting

Robert Frost
Never ask of money spent
Where the spender thinks it went.

Nobody was ever meant
To remember or invent
What he did with every cent.

The Hardship of Accounting by Robert Frost, 
      A Further Range, 1936

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Beyond the Left Turn: The Second Wave of Incorporation of the Popular Sectors in Latin America

by Federico M. Rossi* 

Neoliberalism has been defined as crucial to the reformulation of state-society relations in the postcorporatist period because it has undermined the national-populist or – as Cavarozzi and Garretón (1989) called it – “state-centered matrix”, through the weakening, and sometimes destruction, of existing corporatist arrangements (Oxhorn, 1998).
Neoliberalism has also caused the sociopolitical exclusion or – as I call it – “disincorporation” of the popular sectors. However, exclusion was intensely resisted by social movements mobilizing the popular sectors, such as the landless peasants in Brazil, the indigenous in Bolivia and Ecuador, and the unemployed in Argentina, contributing to a resurgence of the left (Rossi, 2015).
A growing body of literature is examining the turn toward leftist governments (Cameron and Hershberg, 2010; Levitsky and Roberts, 2011). Some scholars associate what might be considered as the end of neoliberalism with the accession of left-wing or populist parties to power in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Venezuela (Grugel and Riggirozzi, 2012). While the access to power of some left-wing or populist parties seems to be relevant for the application of inclusionary policies (Huber and Stephens, 2012), I argue that we need to add extra layers of empirical detail and theoretical density to the “left turn” thesis to explain the complexity of the macro-process of transformation in Latin America’s political arena.
The Poor's Struggle for Political Incorporation The Piquetero Movement in ArgentinaWhat I propose is an explanation for the major process of transformations behind the “left turn”: the second wave of incorporation of the popular sectors. The “second wave of incorporation” means the second major redefinition of the sociopolitical arena in Latin America, caused by the broad and selective inclusion of the popular sectors in the polity after being excluded or disincorporated by military authoritarian regimes and democratic neoliberal reforms. I argue that the second wave of incorporation is the result of the accumulation of transformations that were carried out to deal with the contentious struggle for inclusion or –as I call it– “reincorporation” by the popular sectors, organized in territorialized social movements. The emergence of left-wing or populist parties in government is one of the byproducts of two decades of struggles against disincorporation.

The Two Waves of Incorporation
The first incorporation was a corporatist process that involved a combination of the mobilization of popular claims by labor and/or peasant movements and the policies for channeling those claims into corporatist institutions during the 1930s-1950s. In Brazil this was done for demobilization purposes, while in Bolivia, Venezuela and—mainly—in Argentina incorporation implied the mobilization of the labor movement. In Bolivia and Venezuela, first incorporation also included peasants, and in Ecuador incorporation was done by a military reformist regime with a weak labor movement (Collier and Collier, 1991; French, 1992; Gotkowitz, 2007; Yashar, 2005).
The second incorporation departed in the late 1990s from the inherited institutions and actors of the first incorporation. In addition, the two waves of incorporation were partial and selective, redefining the relationship between the popular sectors and the state. However, in this second wave, the main actor mobilizing the claims of the popular sectors were social movements organizing the disincorporated poor people at the territorial level. In addition, the second incorporation was not conducted through the old corporatist institutions, but through new or reformulated institutions conceived in response to the territorialized nature of the claims that emerged with popular movements.
This second wave was “territorial” because the incorporation of the popular sectors was predominantly done through institutions created or reformulated for the articulation of actors that were not functionally differentiated. This was a result of the emergence of contentious claims for reincorporation outside the trade union system. Instead, urban and rural land occupations, neighborhoods and shantytowns became central spaces for claim making for the organized poor people (Merklen, 2005) once neoliberal reforms and authoritarian regimes had weakened or dissolved neocorporatist arrangements for resolving sociopolitical conflicts. For this reason, the social policies to reincorporate the popular sectors were not function- or class-based but territory-based (i.e., defined by the physical location of the actors). This was an important shift from the functionalist logic of corporatism, which had articulated the popular sectors’ claims through trade unions as their sole representative actor and through the Ministry of Labor or Peasant Affairs as their exclusive state department. To sum up, because they were not seen as serving a clear “function” for institutions with a corporatist logic, the disincorporated popular sectors were targeted by policies based on where they were located and the multiplicity of needs associated with their situation, and not only as workers or peasants.
That the second incorporation was defined by territory-based logics did not mean that corporatist arrangements were abandoned altogether. The most important sources of cross-national variance on the degree of territorialization seem to be four. First, the profundity of the reformulation of the locus of politics conducted by the last authoritarian military regime in each country, whereby democratization proceeded from the local to the national level. Second, the effect wrought by neoliberalism on the mainstream parties claiming to represent popular sectors. Third, the ways that the trade union system was modeled by the corporatist period and remodeled by neoliberalism. Fourth, how the first incorporation of the popular sectors (urban or rural) was produced and how its achievements have been eroded by the military regimes and neoliberalism.
As part of the recursive dynamics of incorporation, both waves shared some elements in the sequencing of incorporation. Both incorporation periods were preceded by a (neo)liberal phase that created a new “social question.” This “social question” in both cases evolved into a political question with a contentious actor that was gradually recognized and legitimated. In the period 1990s to 2000s, the emergence of recommodification and marginalization (i.e., unemployment, impoverishment, exclusion, etc.) as a new “social question,” the modification of policing techniques, and the creation of massive social programs can be seen as a process equivalent to that of the pre-incorporation dynamics. Between the 1870s and the 1950s, anarchists, communists, syndicalists, and socialists posing the “social question” pushed the liberal elites to create anti-immigration and security laws, increase control and repression in the countryside and indigenous communities (Isuani, 1985; Suriano, 1988; French, 1992; Gotkowitz, 2007). This gradually led to populist or leftist leaderships that emerged to recognize the claim to social rights and later the actors behind this new claim, the labor and peasant movements (Collier and Collier, 1991; Welch, 1999; Suriano, 2000; Becker, 2011). Concerning social policies, in the first wave this process led, ultimately, to the creation of the first Ministries of Labor or Peasant Affairs, the application of agrarian reforms (except for Argentina), the production of comprehensive social rights policies and constitutional reforms. In the second wave, it also led to constitutional reforms in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, the creation of new ministries such as the Ministry of Agrarian Development in Brazil and the Ministry of Social Development in Argentina, and the production of wide-ranging cash-transfer policies and universal citizenship income rights policies in all these countries. 
Equally significant has been the introduction of the “indigenous social question” by indigenous movements in Bolivia and Ecuador (Yashar, 2005; Lucero, 2008). Even though indigenous movements in Latin America achieved “first” incorporation during their struggles against neoliberal policies, in national terms and as part of the popular sectors (as broadly defined), indigenous peoples had already been incorporated as “peasants” during the period of corporatist first incorporation. The emergence of a “social question” involving stronger ethnic and territorial identifications than those raised during the first incorporation is a trend common to the second incorporation period. Since the 1990s, the struggles for recognition of indigenous peoples as part of the polity in the Andean region have evolved into reincorporation struggles. In Ecuador, the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE) even created their own party Pachakutik, while in Bolivia some indigenous groups reached office as allies or members of theMovimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party-movement (Van Cott, 2005; Lucero, 2008; Fontana, 2009; Becker, 2011).
A pattern of interaction between government and movement was thus established through new institutions or the redefinition of roles of existing institutions. The struggle against disincorporation was a contentious one, which included a “reincorporation movement” (defined in Rossi, 2015): the unemployed in Argentina, the indigenous and coca growers in Bolivia, the indigenous in Ecuador, landless peasants in Brazil, and—with less strength—urban movements in Venezuela. Generally, these movements coordinated campaigns with trade unions and left-wing parties (see Silva, 2009). Later on, reincorporation was conducted in territorial terms, with institutions such as the territórios da cidadanía in Brazil (Delgado and Leite, 2011), the misiones and círculos bolivarianos in Venezuela (Ellner, 2008), and the partly formalized articulation of movement claims through the General Secretariat of the Presidency in Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil. Also, new institutions, such as social councils, were created to deal with multiple non-corporatist claims in Brazil (Doctor, 2007), and even constitutional reforms in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela were promoted to deal with the new “social question” (Lupien, 2011).
These transformations did not imply that the relationship between popular movements and the elites have been harmonious. First incorporation divided movements, some supporting governments, while others becoming critical or even suffering persecution and repression. In the first wave, the labor movement kept a conflictive relationship with Perón’s governments in Argentina (James, 1988). In Brazil rural incorporation was also conflictive (Welch, 1999), while trade unions resisted some of the control mechanisms associated to urban incorporation (French, 1992). In Bolivia, Gotkowitz (2007) argues that peasants and indigenous movements were very important in building the conditions for first incorporation and, later, the main losers of incorporation policies during the Revolution of 1952.
This holds also true for the second wave of incorporation. How to deal with the Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administrations divided the piquetero movement, with a supportive sector, and another that is critical. In Ecuador, the CONAIE has a very conflictive relationship with Rafael Correa’s government (Becker, 2011). And the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) suffered a delusion with the modest advances of agrarian reform during Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff presidencies. However, this is just half of the story. Cooperation and participation in the coalition in government have been very important, with the inclusion in office of thousands of middle and lower-rank members of social movements, most of them in state departments related to social policies (Abers and Tatagiba, 2015; Rossi, 2015).
While these parallels allow us to talk about two waves of incorporation, they do not mean that history has repeated itself. There are elements of iteration and innovation in a process that is, as such, like a collage. It is also important to bear in mind that incorporation waves should not be equated with the constitution of a more equal society or the creation of a welfare state but with the reshaping of the sociopolitical arena by redefining and expanding the number of legitimate political actors. In some countries, the urban and rural poor were first incorporated into very unequal societies, as in Brazil under Getúlio Vargas (Cardoso, 2010), while in other countries, a more equal society and some welfare policies emerged as a result of incorporation, as in Argentina under Juan Domingo Perón (Torre and Pastoriza, 2002).
Affecting all these cross-nationally is the timing of each particular process. Reincorporation may be a relatively quick process, as it was in Argentina after 2002 and Venezuela since 1998; long processes brought on by several regime breakdowns, as in Bolivia and Ecuador; or even the result of gradual change over the course of a protracted struggle, as in Brazil. Moreover, reincorporation processes involve the remobilization of popular sectors in more than defensive struggles, but this does not necessarily imply the ideological transformation of the popular sectors’ political culture. For instance, in Argentina, Peronism has continued to supply the main political ethos of the popular sectors, while Katarism has emerged as relevant for Bolivian indigenous and coca growers’ movements (Yashar, 2005; Lucero, 2008; Rossi, 2013).
The reincorporation process it is, so far, ongoing in Bolivia and Ecuador. Conversely, recent transformations in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela signal the aftermath of the second wave of (territorial) incorporation in these countries. It is yet to be seen if this would mean a long-term return to massive disincorporation like in the 1970s-1990s.

The list of references
* Federico M. Rossi (PhD, European University Institute) is a Research-Professor of CONICET at the School of Politics and Government of the Universidad Nacional de San Martín. This article, originally posted on Panoramasis based on Rossi’s new book The Poor’s Struggle for Political Incorporation: The Piquetero Movement in Argentina (Cambridge University Press, 2017; discount code: TPSFPI2017)

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Human Capital

Our employees are our greatest asset. I say we sell them

“Our employees are our greatest asset. I say we sell them”, by William Haefeli

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BITS & BRIEFS: Economics is the biggest problem // Gramsci’s hegemony and the Left // Neoliberalism and Higher Education // Incarceration and children’s achievement gap // Trading votes

Reducing our relations to calculations of cost and benefit, disciplined by competition and mediated by the manifold devices of economics, we run the risk of losing our humanity — by Philip Roscoe

Stuart Hall on Gramsci’s ‘hegemony’ and ‘regressive modernisation’ of Thatcherism: shifting the relations of forces and building a new left modernity

Neoliberalism and Higher Education: labor flexibilization, bureaucratization, and corporatization in a public university — by Sasha Breger Bush, Lucy Ware McGuffey, Tony Robinson

High rates of parental incarceration generate the racial gap in education and health among prisoners’ children — by Leila Morsy

Trading parliamentary votes for private gain: logrolling in the approval of new railways in 19th century Britain — by Rui Esteves and Gabriel Geisler Mesevage


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Great academic opportunities: 24 calls for papers, 12 job openings, 2 visiting and postdoc positions, a grant, PhD scholarship, and essay competition

Dear ES/PE community member, see below an abundant list of great and interesting call for papersacademic opportunities: 20 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some of them are fully or partially funded), 12 job openings, 4 calls for papers for special issues, 2 visiting and postdoc positions, a research grant, PhD scholarship, and policy essay competition — in various areas of economic sociology, (global) political economy and related fields, with October 30 – November 30 deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for papers:

CfP: “Institutional Pathologies: What Can We Learn from Severely Malfunctioning Economic and Political Organizations, Institutions and Networks?“, the Fourth Witten Conference on Institutional Change Witten/Herdecke University (Witten, Germany), 1-2 February 2018. DL: Oct 30

> CfP: “Business Cycles in the Modern World System: Past, Present and Future”, The 42nd Annual Conference of the ASA Political Economy of the World-System section, Fairfield University (Fairfield, CT, USA), April 26-28, 2018. DL: Oct 30

> CfP:  “Class and the labour processes“, the 36th International Labour Process Conference, University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), 21-23 March, 2018. DL: Oct 31

> CfP: “Performativity and governance of actuarial models“, An international meeting hosted by the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme, Paris, 13-14 February 2018. The goal is to extend ‘social studies of finance’ analyses of models into a new domain. DL: Oct 31

> CfP:  Liberal Arts Colleges Economic History Workshop, Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA, USA), February 23-24, 2018. No participation fee; meals and lodging will be provided. DL: Oct 31

> CfP: “Marx 200: Politics – Theory – Socialism” congress, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Berlin (Germany), May 2-6, 2018. In some cases travel grants will be awarded, especially for participants from the global South. DL: Oct 31

> CfP: “Households and Peripheral Financialisation in Europe” workshop, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle/Saale, Germany), 22-23 February 2018.  Speakers’ travel and accommodation expenses will be covered. DL: Oct 31

> CfP: “Pervasive Powers: Corporate Authority in the Shaping of Public Policy” conference, Paris Dauphine University (Paris, France), 14-15 June, 2018. Travel expenses may be covered. DL: Oct 31

> CfP: “Debt: 5000 Years and Counting” conference, Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures, University of Birmingham (UK), 8–9 June, 2018. DL: Nov 1 

> CfP: The 82nd Annual Conference of the Japanese Society for the History of Economic Thought, University of Tokyo (Japan), 2–3 June, 2018. DL: Nov 2

> CfP: “Institutional analysis for the evolving economy: Making sense of emergent forms and cultural evolution“, The 39th Meeting of the Association for Institutional Thought,   San Antonio, Texas (USA), April 4-7, 2018. DL: Nov 10

> CfP: “Inclusive and Sustainable Development: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives“, the 21st Annual Conference of the Indian Political Economy Association,  Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi, India),  December 8-9, 2017. Participants shall be provided accommodation at the Institute. DL: Nov 10

> CfP: “The End of Cash: a Challenge to Public Authority?” workshop, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University (New York), April 26-27, 2018. DL: Nov 15

> CfP: “Sustainable Consumption: Fostering Good Practices and Confronting the Challenges of the 21st Century“, the 3rd International Conference of the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative, Copenhagen Business School, June 27–29, 2018. DL: Nov 15

> CfP: “Norms and Normativity“, the 4th Economic Philosophy Conference, University of Lyon (France), 27-29 June, 2018. DL: Nov 15

> CfP: “Risk, Honor & Innovation: Imagining New Markets“, the 3rd Richard Robinson Workshop on Business History, Portland State University (Portland, OR, USA), May 24-26, 2018. No charge for registration; presenters will receive lodging and meals; travel costs up to $500 will  be reimbursed. DL: Nov 15

> CfP: “Policy Diffusion and Development Cooperation” international conference,  Federal University of São Paulo (Sao-Paulo, Brazil), 16-19 May, 2018. DL: Nov 15

> CfP: The Business History Conference Doctoral Colloquium in Business History, Baltimore (Maryland, USA), April 4-5, 2018. This workshop for early stage doctoral candidates will be held in conjunction with the BHC annual meeting (April 5-7). All participants receive a stipend that partially defrays travel costs. DL: Nov 15

CfP: “The Great Transition: Setting the Stage for a Post-Capitalist Society” conference,  Montreal, 17-20 May 2018. DL: Nov 15

> CfP: The 14th Workshop on New Institutionalism in Organization Theory, Bocconi University (Milan, Italy) March 16-17, 2018.  DL: Nov 19

Calls for contributions to special issues:

> CfP: Special Issue on “Elites in Latin America“, Revista Española de Sociología (RES accepts articles in Spanish and English). DL for abstracts: Oct 31

> CfP: Special Issue on “Karl Marx @ 200: Debating Capitalism & Perspectives for the Future of Radical Theory”, Communication, Capitalism & Critique (TripleC). DL for abstracts: Nov 15

CfP: Special Issue on “History of Corporate Finance“, Journal of Risk and Financial Management. DL for abstracts: Nov 15

> CfP: Special Issue on “Varieties of Professionalism in a Globalising World: New Theoretical Perspectives and Analytical Approaches”, CAMBIO. DL for abstracts: Nov 30

Jobs and positions:

> University Assistant (must hold a Diploma/Master’s degree) for a full-time, six-year position at the Department of Theoretical Sociology and Social Analysis,  the Johannes Kepler University Linz (Austria). Job Duties: Assistant editor of Global Dialogue; Teach and conduct research on care, migration, global inequality and/or theories of capitalism, political sociology, feminist theory; Complete a doctoral dissertation. DL: Oct 31

Assistant Professor in Global Politics (full-time, nine-month, tenure track) with  focus in comparative and/or international political economy,  Department of Political Science at the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL, USA). DL: Nov 1

Assistant Professor (tenure stream) in International Development Studies, Department of Social Science, York University (Toronto, Canada). The department is looking for a  critical development studies scholar with expertise in the determinants, policies, interventions, and/or discourses of displacement in the Global South. DL: Nov 1

Assistant Professor in International Political Economy focusing on regulatory and governance issues in relation to trade and finance,  the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University (England, UK). DL: Nov 1

> Sociology of Stratification and Inequality Assistant Professor (Tenure-Track),  Department of Sociology,  the University of South Carolina. DL: Nov 6 

Sociology of Stratification, Inequality, and Quantitative Methods Assistant Professor  (Tenure-Track),  Dept. of Sociology,  University of South Carolina. DL: Nov 6  

Head of ‘European economic, employment and social policies’ unit at the European Trade Union Institute research department, Brussels (Belgium). DL: Nov 10

> Researcher within the Economic Justice team working on Tax Justice, Financial Reform, Regulation, Corporate Lobby and Corporate Law,  at SOMO — the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, a critical, independent, not-for-profit center on multinationals in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). DL: Nov 13

> Assistant Professor (tenure track) in the history of U.S. political economy from the Civil War to the present, Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA). DL: Nov 17

Assistant Professor of  Sociology (preferably  with expertise in social networks), Department of Sociology, Hong Kong Baptist University. DL: Nov 18

Professor in Sociology of Inequalities, University of Glasgow – School of Social & Political Sciences. DL: Nov 18

Assistant Professor (tenure track) of Sociology focusing on Global Inequalities, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro (USA). DL: Nov 20

Post-doc and Visiting positions:

> Postdoctoral Fellows (3 Posts) experienced in qualitative methods in labour studies, to investigate the challenges of social protection and labour representation in the ‘hybrid areas of work’, Leeds University Business School. DL: Nov 6

Research grant:

William Waters Grant from the Association for Social Economics for graduate students or tenured or untenured faculty below the rank of Associate Professor. Possible topics: social values in economic life, economic policy and social wellbeing, social capital, social networks, workplace and social justice, corporate social responsibility, socially responsible investment, microfinance, ethics and economics, inequality, etc. DL: Nov 1

PhD position:

Fully funded PhD position in Business and Organizational Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen (Denmark). DL: Nov 1

Essay Competition:

> The Policy Corner Essay Competition for students and early career professionals of ages 30 years and under to analyze  (800-1000 words) a current issue linked to economic policy.  Cash prizes offered for the three best articles. DL: Oct 30

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China is getting on wheels: varieties of development, car market reform and globalization

by Qiushi Feng*

China is getting on wheels. Over the past three decades, with unparalleled speed, China has emerged as the world’s largest producer and consumer of passenger cars. Such a rapid growth is accompanied by profound changes of the Chinese economy, both externally and internally. The domestic market reform and the ongoing globalization have reconfigured China’s economy, as well as its carmaking sector. Focusing on this important economic sector in China, Variety of Development: Chinese Automakers in Market Reform and Globalization reveals how local institutions have moderated structural changes at national/global levels, and consequentially generated significant organizational diversities in the production sphere.
variety-of-developmentThis book begins with some intriguing observations that Chinese carmakers have been evolving differently despite the fact that they experienced similar external changes. For example, in the contemporary Chinese market of passenger cars, a large number of state-owned firms are producing foreign-branded cars in the joint ventures with foreign automakers; simultaneously there are active private firms making cars independently, with national brands. In the same market transition, why did Chinese assemblers develop different ownership structures? As the world car industry becomes globalized, how did Chinese automakers choose different technology strategies? It is thus the central aim of this book to explain the great variety of Chinese car assemblers to organize their production in the market transition and globalization.
Social scientists long use the production force and production relations in understanding the process of production, and this book proposes to classify the Chinese carmakers along the line of ownership structure and technological strategy. Under the light of these two criteria, four extant production models are identifiable among Chinese carmakers, namely enterprises owned by the central government and producing foreign-branded cars through joint ventures (Model 1), enterprises owned by local governments and producing foreign-branded cars through joint ventures (Model 2), enterprises owned by local governments and making national cars independently (Model 3), and enterprises privately owned and making national cars independently (Model 4). More details are illustrated in the appendix of the book.
Indicative of various development pathways of Chinese carmakers, such production variety poses some puzzles for a number of theoretical perspectives. Set against the backdrop of market reform and globalization, the Chinese car sector may be reasonably assumed with dominance of private enterprises and foreign products. The resilience of state-owned automobile enterprises and the rise of national cars in China, however, put such scenarios in question. Next, state-sponsored automakers have less interest to make national cars in China, as seems not in line with the literature of the developmental state. Moreover, the Chinese national-car makers are often small-sized, which is a mismatch to Schumpeter’s hypothesis in economics that larger firms are more capable in innovations. Last, against the wisdom of ‘global value chains’, which posits that domestic firms in developing countries could upgrade through connections to foreign corporations, the Chinese national car makers operate independently without western partners.
This book provides an institutional analysis to explain the developmental variety of the Chinese carmakers. Given the requisite long production chain and complicated coordination system, automobile manufacture is highly capital- and technology-intensive; and the car sector thus becomes attractive to many actors after China launched the market reform. Initiatives to produce cars have sprouted across China since the 1980s, and often developed into major industrial projects, involving multiple stakeholders such as the central government, local governments and local enterprises. Elucidating how these projects were carried out is indeed the key to capture the source of variance in ownership structure and technology strategy among Chinese carmakers.
I argue that the pre-transition national positioning of a given local economy created path-dependencies that shaped the local political structure and configuration of developmental ideas towards car projects during the reform. The local political structure enabled and regulated the relevant stakeholders to pursue distinct interests in the project, whereas the configuration of developmental ideas stimulated and nurtured the rationales and strategies adopted by these stakeholders. From this perspective, I take the ownership structure and technological strategy of Chinese car assemblers since the 1980s as outcomes of local socio-political processes, characterized by power-differentiated interactions among related actors with differing developmental ideas.
Empirically, this book examines four distinct cases out of thirteen major Chinese carmakers (for details, please refer to the appendix), each of which is representative for one of the four models, including First Auto Work (FAW), the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (Group) (SAIC), Chery Auto, and Geely Auto. These four cases are chosen to demonstrate how local institutions have shaped ownership structure and upgrading strategy of a Chinese carmaker. The case of FAW, representative of Model 1, unfolds as a history of the central government rebuilding its previous largest national auto-factory in the reform, with a rationale to acquire foreign technologies through joint ventures. In contrast, Geely Auto (Model 4) showcases how Taizhou city of Zhejiang province as a previously forgotten land in the national economic map nurtured a vigorous private economy in the reform, giving rise to one of the most active carmakers of national brands. The stories of SAIC Group of Model 2 and Chery Auto of Model 3 both feature the prominent role of a local government. However, the former is from Shanghai, one of China’s most politically prestigious cities, whose strong bureaucracy persuaded the central authority to approve joint ventures of cars for the sake of local economy; whereas the latter is in Anhui province, a region of less priority in the national industrialization plans: the local officials had to start a car project underground after the reform, as in the eyes of the central administration, it was a serious violation of the national industrial policy.
* Qiushi Feng, PhD, National University of Singapore (‫

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BITS & BRIEFS: Conspicuous consumption is over // Public Intellectuals vs. Thought Leaders // Killing neoliberalism // Frankfurt School // School vouchers’ effects

This time — especially worth reading (and sharing) articles:

Conspicuous Consumption is over; Cultural Capital replaced it as a signifier of socio-economic status — by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett

> Public Intellectuals vs. “Thought Leaders”: the former challenge the oligarchy, the latter flatter them. Eric Alterman reviews Daniel Drezner’s The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats Are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas

> What Will Kill Neoliberalism? A roundtable on its fate — by Joelle Gamble, Paul Mason, Bryce Covert, William Darity Jr. and Peter Barnes

> The Frankfurt School: In mass society human consciousness is enclosed within the ideological fortress — by Stuart Walton 

The impact of School Vouchers on education in Sweden: scores fell, inequality grew, ethnic segregation increased, profits of independent schools inflated – by Henry M. Levin

(by Doug Chayka)

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Neil Smelser: “Economic sociology, intellectually, is one of the strongest fields in sociology”

economic sociology smelserA brilliant and influential sociologist Neil Smelser passed away on Monday at the age of 87, leaving behind an extraordinary intellectual legacy. Among many contributions during his prolific academic career, unparalleled in its diversity and breadth (in social change, social movements, sociology of education, comparative  history,  sociological theory, etc) — UC Berkeley Professor Smelser has laid the foundations for the rebirth of Economic Sociology and steadily promoted it on the scholarly as well as organizational levels.
In 1956, during his first year at Harvard graduate school, Smelser coauthored with the renowned Talcott Parsons Economy and Society, a 300-page book of mostly theoretical deliberations and insights, which starts with the following sharp and programmatic statement:

This volume is designed as a contribution to the synthesis of theory in economics and sociology. We believe that the degree of separation between these two disciplines — separation emphasized by intellectual traditions and present institutional arrangements — arbitrarily conceals a degree of intrinsic intimacy between them which must be brought to the attention of the respective professional groups.” (p. xvii)

But the book, that elaborated on the role of institutions in the economy, got a negative reception by economists and failed to ignite an interest among sociologists, mainly because of insufficient empirical data and the ascendancy of static Parsonian categories.
In 1963 Smelser published a modest in its size but thought-provoking and thorough The Sociology of Economic Life (open access).
 This book was a precocious work that did not immediately advance distinct new lines of research (although the publisher initiated its second edition in 1976); but in retrospect, one can say that it was a pioneering work that adumbrated the directions of renascent economic sociology. On the page 32, Smelser articulated the analytical focus of economic sociology, which since then has become the point of departure for various definitions of the nowadays vibrant field of study:   

Economic sociology is the application of the general frame of reference, variables, and explanatory models of sociology to that complex of activities concerned with the production, distribution, exchange, and consumption of scarce goods and services.”

The Handbook of Economic Sociology, edited by Smelser and Richard Swedberg and published in 1994, already marked the intermediate pick of the discipline, following the 10-15 fruitful years in which ‘new’ economic sociology had enjoyed remarkable developments propelled by the researches of Mark Granovetter and others in the US and Europe. The second edition of The Handbook (2005; open access) undoubtedly signified the scientific culmination of this evolutionary process of creation and dissemination of knowledge on the ontological embeddedness of state-economy-society; the fountain of knowledge  which vigorously continues to well and gush.
In 2013, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library released a massive volume consisting of dozens of interviews with Neil Smelser, in which he told about his professional lifelong path and the institutional history of US social science. Amidst hundreds of pages of intriguing stories and thoughts, Smelser revealed that as a consultant to the Economic Sciences Nobel Prize committee he recommended against awarding Chicago School economist Gary Becker:

“[His nomination was for] the extension of rational choice to the analysis of racial discrimination. He became involved in the analysis of family… and marriage rates and marriage bargains and so on. He did it in strictly economic terms. And he and his colleagues developed a rational choice theory of drug use… All within a very orthodox economic framework…. I played exactly the devil’s advocate for the value of these extensions of economic reasoning into areas which did not lend themselves to it. In other words, I thought it was an intellectually erroneous adventure on his part and bold, to be sure, and consistent and persuasive, as Becker always is. But nonetheless, I thought it was not intellectually worth what was claimed for it and the results that were argued for. I simply had a judgment that this was not the right way, right intellectual way to approach institutions which were fundamentally not economic in character. That’s my take on what is called economic imperialism.” (p. 542)

I would like to conclude this unforgivably brief depiction of the small portion of Neil Smelser’s academic journey by rereading his words (p. 412-3) which I found not just descriptive in regard to past economic sociology, but also prescriptive to future economic sociologists. 

The impulse of economic sociology has been critical of orthodox economics, not Marxist economics, largely for its artificiality and assumptions about rationality and assumptions about atomism of the individual actor and that social institutions play a role in dictating taste, behavior, conflict, market processes. It’s more of a polemic, in a negative sense, on the world view of economists, and an attempt to substitute a world view that personal interaction, social institutions, cultural understandings play a role in dominating economically relevant action… Economic sociology became primarily analytic and did not have a single ideological thrust to it. It’s diverse and eclectic from the standpoint of perspectives… Economic sociology, intellectually, is one of the strongest fields in sociology.” 

economic sociology

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