Keeping Business Alive: The Government as a Payer of Last Resort

by Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman*

The coronavirus threatens the world’s economic life. The most important message that needs to come from heads of state immediately, even before any new law or complete implementation details are provided, is: “Do not lay off your workers or liquidate your business. Government will pay your idle workers and your necessary maintenance costs while you are shutdown. Government money is coming soon.[1] This is crucial to stanch the flow of mass layoffs and business destruction that is already starting. Why is such a measure necessary, and how to implement it in practice?
Social distancing measures, essential to fight the epidemic, are sharply reducing demand in many sectors such as transportation, restaurants, hotels, and entertainment. This direct output loss is expected to be short, probably a few months. It is possible to roughly estimate this loss by summing up output in sectors that are going to shut down (as of writing, nation-wide lockdowns have already been decided in Italy, Spain, and France, among other countries). In the United States, we estimate that the direct output loss will be around 30%. If this direct loss lasts a quarter, the annual GDP loss will be 7.5%—comparable to a very severe recession.
The government cannot undo this direct output loss, but it can alleviate economic hardship during the epidemic and prevent the direct output loss from causing lasting damage to the economy. In other words, the government can prevent a very sharp but short recession from becoming a long-lasting depression. Absent government actions, the direct output loss will create large losses for businesses and will lead to mass layoffs. Many businesses and workers do not have enough liquidity to weather dramatic shortfalls in demand. The risk is to see many businesses liquidate, severely affecting workers’ families. The death of a business has long-term costs: the links between entrepreneurs, workers, and customers are destroyed and often need to be rebuilt from scratch; laid off workers need to find new jobs.[2] Keeping businesses alive through this crisis and making sure workers continue to receive their paychecks is essential—even for businesses and workers that have to remain idle due to social distancing.[3]
In the context of this pandemic, we need a new form of social insurance, one that directly helps both workers and businesses. The most direct way to provide this insurance is to have the government act as a payer of last resort so that hibernating businesses can keep paying their workers (instead of laying them off) and can keep paying their necessary bills such as rent, utilities, interest, etc. (instead of going bankrupt).
In practice, the key step is to make sure that cash flows to idle workers and businesses immediately. Payments should be set in the simplest form. Idle workers should immediately start receiving special unemployment insurance benefits so that they are no longer a cost to their employers—even though they stay formally employed—and no re-hiring process is needed once they can come back to work. The unemployment insurance system is already up and running. This makes it possible to compute and deliver compensation to idle workers. Self-employed individuals (such as gig workers) could report themselves as idle and be eligible for this special unemployment insurance. In case of partial idling, unemployment insurance benefits would be prorated. Unemployment insurance benefits are progressive, since they replace a higher fraction of earnings for low-paid workers. This is a desirable feature, as low-paid workers are more likely to be affected by the lockdown (i.e., less likely to be able to work from home) and less likely to have savings to replace a temporary loss in earnings.
In the payer-of-last-resort program we envision, businesses on lockdown would report their monthly necessary costs of maintenance and receive payment from the government. Necessary costs are rent, utility payments, interest on debt, health insurance of idle workers, and other costs that are vital for the maintenance of the business even if the business is no longer operating. For partially shutdown sectors, the government would pay a fraction of the maintenance costs. The amounts don’t need to be exact; verification and correction can take place once the lockdown is over. Any excess government payment could be transformed into an interest-free interest loan that the government could recoup over several years.
The key advantage of this policy is that businesses can hibernate without bleeding cash and hence without risking bankruptcy.  The reason why such a policy would work in the case of the coronavirus pandemic is twofold. First, it is clear what is driving the shock: a health crisis that has nothing to do with any business’s decision and will be temporary. Second, different industries are affected differently. That’s in contrast to normal recessions, where the drop in demand is widely spread and has no clear timeline.
Providing liquidity—in the form of interest-free loans, for example—can help businesses and laid off workers weather the storm, but this policy is insufficient. Loans do not compensate businesses and workers for their losses; loans just allow them to smooth costs over a longer time horizon. In the case of the coronavirus crisis, however, it makes sense for the government to compensate businesses and workers for their losses through social insurance so that each business can re-emerge almost intact after the hibernation due to social distancing ends, rather than loaded with a heavy coronavirus debt burden.
How much would such a payer-of-last-resort program cost? Based on national account statistics by industry, we estimate that with a nation-wide lockdown, up to 30% of aggregate demand could evaporate in the US over the next 3 months, leading to a 7.5% drop in annual GDP. Compensating idle workers and necessary business maintenance costs would involve government payments of around half of this total. Unemployment insurance replaces about 50-60% of wages, and essential maintenance costs of businesses are probably less than half of their normal operating costs (for example, non-flying planes do not burn fuel). The total cost for the government would be around 3.75% points of GDP, financed via an increase in public debt. The direct output loss from social distancing measures would in effect be put on the government’s tab, i.e., socialized.
Current proposals to deal with the economic consequences of the pandemic do not go far enough or are not well targeted to the ailing sectors. Business loans help businesses but do not compensate them for their losses. Postponing tax payments helps with liquidity but is not well targeted, since it also benefits individuals and businesses not directly affected by the pandemic. Direct payments to individuals (such as $1,000 checks to each household) help alleviate temporary economic hardship but this policy is poorly targeted as well: it’s too little for those who lose their jobs, and it is not needed for those who don’t. During social distancing, the goal should not be to increase aggregate demand, since people can no longer spend on many goods and services. Unemployment insurance and paid sick leave policies come closest to helping laid off workers and those unable to work, but they do not prevent layoffs and do not help businesses.
A payer-of-last-resort program will work if it is limited in time (e.g., 3 months), so that the cost remains manageable and business decisions are not affected. It would not fully offset the economic cost of the coronavirus. No matter what governments do, there will be real output losses. Even if airlines workers are paid, the plane rides won’t happen. For other sectors, supply-chains distortions will happen no matter what, due, e.g., to quarantine measures. But a payer-of-last-resort program would alleviate the hardship on workers and businesses. It would maintain the cash flow for families and businesses, so that the coronavirus shock has no secondary impacts on demand—such as laid-off workers cutting down on consumption—and a quick rebound can take place once demand comes back. Business activity is on hold today, but with an intravenous cash flow, it can be kept alive until the health crisis is over.

AP Photo John Minchillo

AP Photo / John Minchillo

Endnotes: [1] Indeed, as we were writing this article, several European countries have moved in this direction, most notably Denmark with its temporary wage compensation scheme and France with President Macron’s address on March 16, 2020. [2] This point on direct losses and indirect losses through feedback effects is well explained in Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier “Flattening the Pandemic and Recession Curves”, March 13, 2020. [3] Standard economic models assume zero transaction costs for hiring workers, finding customers, deploying capital, etc. and hence cannot capture the issue at hand well.
* Emmanuel Saez is Professor of Economics and Gabriel Zucman is Associate Professor of Economics (UC Berkeley). They are co-authors of The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay (2019). This article was originally published on Professor Zucman’s website on March 16, 2020. The emphases added by the editor.

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The Probable Implications of the Coronavirus Crisis — Slavoj Zizek, Branko Milanovic, David Grossman

> Branko Milanovic: “In the current crisis, people who have not become fully specialized enjoy an advantage… Everything that used to be an advantage in a heavily specialized economy now becomes a disadvantage, and the reverse.”[…] “The human toll of the disease will be the most important cost and the one that could lead to societal disintegration… Thus the main (perhaps even the sole) objective of economic policy today should be to prevent social breakdown.” // Recommended read: Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization (Milanovic 2016)

> Slavoj Žižek: “In the last days, we hear again and again that each of us is personally responsible and has to follow the new rules… Such a focus on individual responsibility, necessary as it is, functions as ideology the moment it serves to obfuscate the big question of how to change our entire economic and social system. The struggle against the coronavirus can only be fought together with the struggle against ideological mystifications, plus as part of a general ecological struggle” […] “I fear barbarism with a human face – ruthless survivalist measures enforced with regret and even sympathy but legitimized by expert opinions.” // Recommended read: Like A Thief In Broad Daylight: Power in the Era of Post-Humanity (Zizek 2018)

>  David Grossman: “For many, the plague might become the fateful and formative event in the continuation of their lives… Many will lose their place of work, their livelihood, their dignity. But when the plague ends, there may also be those who will not wish to return to their former lives. There will be those – the ones who are able to, of course – who will leave the job that for years stifled and suppressed them… Possibly a consciousness of life’s brevity and fragility will spur men and women to set a new order of priorities. To insist far more on distinguishing the wheat from the chaff. To understand that time – not money – is their most precious resource.” // Recommended read: To the End of the Land (2010)


World Trade Center station (Yuki Iwamura, AP)

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Neoliberalism, Varieties of Capitalism, and Coronavirus

Since Neoliberalism shaped and fortified the notion that ‘the economy’ precedes ‘society’, now that Coronavirus crisis requires to put society first — this is perceived by many as simply illogical and capricious.
Looking at the crisis around the world demonstrates a fascinating  — and disturbing  — story about varieties of Capitalism, differences between countries and cultures regarding the state’s realization of its role and degree of responsibility towards society, the extent of citizens’ trust in the state’s institutions, the tension between individualistic and communal values, the social and civic motives versus business and economic interests, etc. Taking into account especially the varieties of welfare state and healthcare (the US, undoubtedly, is the most negative example in this aspect in the Global North), the most vulnerable in the current situation are low-wage and gig-economy workers, the (mostly women) care workers, the poor elderly, immigrants, and homeless people.
As gloomy clouds of the pandemic are descending, let us bear in mind that “Solidarity is not discovered by reflection but created. It is created by increasing our sensitivity to the particular details of the pain” (Rorty 1989: xvi). Let us hope that this world-shaking, singular event — whose probable implications still cannot be grasped — will also lead to worldviews changes and generate new intellectual beginnings regarding the ways we see, shape and carry out the role of the economy within the society for the sake of humanity and especially those who were abused and left behind by the Neoliberal crusade.

coronavirus first report

The first tweet by World Health Organization on the outbreak of Coronavirus, January 4, 2020

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The Great Transformation — 75 Years Later

karl polanyiKarl Polanyi’s masterpiece The Great Transformation was written during the Second World War and published in 1944, but the relevance and importance of this preeminent book has continued to grow. 75 year later, The Great Transformation — an admirable treatise debunking the false creed of economic determinism and market fundamentalism, and elaborating on their hazardous ramifications — remains fresh and enlightening, and it is indispensable for understanding the current phenomena of our turbulent time. The book was slow in arriving at public and scholarly domains, but has kept on surfacing and then gradually become a canonical text and highly influential research in social science and humanities. Since the 1980s, this Polanyi’s classic work and his other writings have greatly inspired and impelled the rebirth and development of economic sociology, political economy and history of capitalism.
The International Sociological Association magazine Global Dialogue organized with the International Karl Polanyi Society a symposium to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Polanyi’s magnum opus. Authors of path-breaking books about Polanyi’s life and work, such as Fred Block, Gareth Dale, and Margaret R. Somers, and other scholars cover a wide range of topics, from a reflection on the context which was of relevance for The Great Transformation to the analysis of socio-economic and political developments of the last decades through Polanyi’s perspectives. The short articles included in this symposium are:
“75 Years of The Great Transformation” by Brigitte Aulenbacher & Andreas Novy
“Polanyi’s The Great Transformation at Seventy-Five” Fred Block & Margaret Somers
“The Market as Statecraft: a Polanyian Reading” by Antonino Palumbo & Alan Scott
“Polanyi, Accounting, and ‘Beyond GDP’” by Gareth Dale
“Great Transformations: Marketizing East Asia” by Jonathan D. London
“The Fear of Population Replacement” by Attila Melegh
“The Road to Populism” by Chris Hann 
“The Enduring Legacy of Karl Polanyi” by Andreas Novy

(In addition to the English version, all these articles are available in 13 languages)

At the beginning of The Great Transformation Polanyi writes: “Nineteenth-century civilization has collapsed. This book is concerned with the political and economic origins of this event, as well as with the great transformation which it ushered.” As we are witnessing the erosion of the post-WWII 20th century foundations and order, Polanyi’s The Great Transformation is not just a timely read about the past but also a wake-up call regarding the future.

Immanuel Wallerstein noted once that “Karl Polanyi is a Titan among modern social theorists. He is always worth rereading. He forces us to think”. So delve into Polanyi’s books and collections:
— Polanyi, Karl. 2018. Economy and Society: Selected Writings. Polity Press.
— Polanyi, Karl. 2014. For a New West: Essays, 1919-1958. Polity Press.
— Polanyi, Karl. 2001.
The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Beacon Press.

The following excellent books are essential to understand Polanyi’s mutually embedded intellectual journey, scientific contribution and personal life:
— Block, Fred and Margaret R. Somers. 2014. The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi’s Critique. Harvard University Press
— Dale, Gareth. 2016. Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left. Columbia University Press.
— Dale, Gareth. 2016. Reconstructing Karl Polanyi: Excavation and Critique. Pluto Press.

— Dale, Gareth. 2010. Karl Polanyi: The Limits of the Market. Polity Press.
— Polany-Levitt, Karry. 1990. Life And Work Of Karl Polanyi. Black Rose Books.

The Great Transformation polanyi

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Great academic opportunities: 10 calls for papers, 6 summer schools, 4 jobs, 3 PhD fellowships, 3 postdocs, an award

Dear ES/PE community member, see below a list of great academic call for papersopportunities: 10 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some are partially or fully funded), 6 summer schools (some are partially or fully funded), 4 job openings, 3 PhD fellowships, 3 post-doc positions, and an award — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with February 24 — March 12  deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Conflict and Development”, the 11th Annual Workshop on “Growth, History and Development”, University of Southern Denmark (Odense), April 14, 2020. Keynoters: Antonio Ciccone, Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, Eoin McLaughlin. No registration fees; Refreshments and meals will be provided. DL: February 24

> CfP: “Financial Crises, Poverty and Environmental Sustainability“, a workshop organized by University of Sussex and several UN units, UN Conference Centre, Bangkok (Thailand), 10-11 June, 2020. Participation is free; Limited funding will be available for presenters from low/middle-income countries. DL: February 27

> CfP: The International Association for the Economics of Participation conference, organized in collaboration with the Beyster Symposium, La Jolla (CA, USA) June 21-24, 2020. A small amount of funding is available for students and participants from developing and transition economies. DL: February 28

> CfP: “Unpacking Capitalism: Structures, Endurance, Reproduction” conference, Durham University (UK), 30 – 31 July, 2020. DL: February 29

> CfP: ‘The Hau of Finance: Ethnographic Inquiries into Impact Investing and the Moral Turn in Finance’ workshop, Bologna University, Ravenna (Italy), 25th March, 2020. Reasonable travel expenses and two nights accommodation will be covered. DL: February 29

> CfP: “Markets and Institutions in Eastern & Central Europe” conference,  Institute for Economic History, Humboldt University Berlin (Germany), 4 – 5 September, 2020. Keynoter: Joachim Voth.  There is no participation fee; there is limited funding available for participants with no budget. DL: March 1

> CfP: “Rentier Capitalism: Contemporary Forms of Rent and its Effects on Capital Accumulation” workshop, Maison des Science de l’Homme, Paris (France), 10-11 June 2020. Keynoters: Brett Chrisptohers, Cédric Durand, Sabine Montagne, Mary O’Sullivan, Ugo Pagano. There is no participation fee; a number of young scholars will receive accommodation and a partial travel stipend. DL: March 1

> CfP: “Conference on Low-Income Housing Supply & Housing Affordability” conference, Tel-Aviv University (Israel), 8-9 June, 2020. 3-day lodging expenses will be payed; a trip to Jerusalem will be held on June 7. DL: March 1

> CfP: “Economic Anthropology and the Sense of Environmental Crisis“, a workshop by the German Anthropological Association’s Economic Anthropology group (in English), University of Konstanz,  15 -16 October, 2020. DL: March 1

> CfP: The first joint International Political Economy conference of the Austrian, German, and Swiss Political Science Associations, Technical University of Munich (Germany), 15-16 June, 2020. Two nights’ free accommodations for the 30 best submissions from pre-tenure scholars will be provided. DL: March 2

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> 2 Postdoc positions in the research program ‘The Business Corporation as a Political Actor’, Utrecht University (The Netherlands). DL: February 25

> 3 Post Doc Researchers to contribute to topics: labor history and relations in a global comparative perspective / economic thinking and reform policies in a socio-historical dimension / social movements and volunteerism / European and global labor migration – at the Research Center for the History of Transformations, University of Vienna (Austria). DL: Marh 2

> Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Social Capital, Queen Mary University of London. DL: March 5

PhD Fellowships:

> 2 PhD positions in the research program ‘The Business Corporation as a Political Actor’, Utrecht University (The Netherlands). DL: February 25

> Doctoral Positions in Economic Sociology and Political Economy, the International Max Planck Research School on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy,  The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG), University of Cologne and University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany). DL: February 28 

> Funded PhD Studentship “Inquiries into the Future of Work“, Department of People and Organisations,  The Open University (Milton Keynes, UK). DL: March 2

Summer Schools:

> CfA: The Hyman P. Minsky Summer Seminar for graduate students & junior scholars, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, USA), June 7–13, 2020.  The fee covers provision of room and board. DL: February 28

> CfA: “Responsible Capitalism: Micro & Macro-institutional Conditions of Transformation“, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy), June 16-19, 2020. DL: February 28

> CfA: “Diversifying and Decolonising the History of Economics“, a workshop for young scholars and PhD students, Utrecht University (Netherlands), June 17, 2020 (before the HES Conference, 18-21 June). A limited amount of travel stipends is available. DL: February 29

> CfA: “Challenges for Business History in a Changing World”, the 10th European Business History Association Doctoral Summer School, University of Barcelona (Spain), July 8-11, 2020. Keynoter: Albert Carreras. Accommodation and food will be provided. DL: February 29

> CfA: The Duke Summer Institute on the History of Economics for graduate students and early-career scholars, Center for the History of Political Economy, Duke University (NC, USA), June 7-11, 2020. There is no registration fee; housing, meals and economy-class round-trip airfare will be covered. DL: March 1

> CfA: “Strategies for the Future of Work”, the 12th Medici Summer School for doctoral students and young researchers, MIT Sloan School of Management (Boston, MA, USA), June 15-19. There is no participation fee; accommodation and board expenses during the week of sessions will be provided. DL: March 6

Job openings:

> Lecturer in political economy / comparative politics and public policy, Department of Politics, University of York (UK). DL: February 23

> Senior Researcher in Economic Sociology, The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG), Cologne (Germany). DL: February 28

> Two Assistant professors of Sociology (welfare state / labour / urban), Department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands). DL: March 1

> Senior Lecturer / Lecturer in Political Economy, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Edinburgh (UK). DL:  March 12


> Egon-Matzner Award for Socio-Economics will be presented to young scientists (up to 35 years of age) for scientific publications in heterodox / evolutionary / institutional economics, public finance, infrastructure policy. DL: February 29

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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.

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.
* Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School. A corresponding author, José Ossandón:

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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.

— 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.

* 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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