Ten years after the 2007-2008 global financial crisis – the human toll in the financial services sector

by Gregor Gall*

Ten years ago this summer, the first rumblings of the thunderclap of what would become the global storm of the great financial crisis of 2007-2008 were heard. The first rumble to be heard was of the panic around sub-prime mortgages in the United States. Previously ever increasing house prices started to stall as people’s ability to pay their mortgages declined. The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lending agencies collapsed, necessitating government bailouts.  This was followed by BNP Paribas closed down two hedge funds as essentially worthless.
The contagion then spread to Britain, with the first run on a bank in one hundred and fifty years happening. This was Northern Rock. It was nationalised along with some other building societies and the financial titans of the Royal Bank of Scotland and LloydsTSB. Barclays only avoided needing a government bailout due to securing questionable loans from Qatar. The contagion spread into the wider economic system in Britain, with the credit crunch giving way to a financial crash and then a recession and that recession then gave way to an age of austerity in public spending and welfare which we are still living with today.
For a crisis that started in the financial services sector, relatively little is known about how it has affected the mass of ‘ordinary’ workers in this particular sector of the economy. Indeed, most of what is known in popular terms can be situated around ‘banker bashing on bonuses’ but this does nothing to shed light upon the post-crash experience of the massed ranks of the non-managers and non-executives in the financial services sector.
Employment Relations in Financial Services An Exploration of the EmployeeIn my new book, Employment Relations in Financial Services: An Exploration of the Employee Experience After the Financial Crash, I examine the processes and outcomes by which workers in the sector have been made to pay for a crisis and a calamity not of their own making. The book examines their working conditions and experience of work and employment in the sector and builds upon my previous book,  Labour Unionism in the Financial Services Sector: Struggling for Rights and Representation, which was published in 2008 just at the storm clouds were breaking.
The tale to be told in Employment Relations in Financial Services is a sorry one of redundancies, unpaid overtime, below inflation pay rises and ever more oppressive management techniques. Financial services sector workers are now working longer and harder for less in real terms. Indeed, those left in the sector can be seen as the most unfortunate ones because they are the ones having to pick up the pieces and do more with less. My book analyses these outcomes in terms of flight, fright, fight and falling-in-line.
There has been a massive amount of flight, fright and falling-in-line but sparse evidence of any fight. Hundreds of thousands have left the sector as result of voluntary severance packages. The fear of redundancy is one of the main factors which has resulted in workers experiencing fright. Another is performance management systems whereby individual workers’ pay rises are determined by managers’ assessments. In this system, underperformance leads to a not so polite invitation to leave the organisation. Some have referred to this as ‘being managed out the door’. The result has been a falling-in-line of workers chasing their tails to meet their ever growing number of targets.
Ironically, partnership working between unions and management in the sector – which has been more widespread in the sector than in any others – has survived the financial crash even though the companies have effectively ceased to negotiate with the unions, merely consulting with them now. It’s been a difficult situation for the unions – unable or unwilling to mobilise their members, membership has fallen in a self-reinforcing and downward spiral. That is why I was able to extend the four-fold analysis from my previous book into this new work in regard of the dissolution, disorganisation, dislocation and demoralisation of financial service sector workers’ collective organisation, namely, unions.
So, ten years on, is this just another hard luck story amongst many other hard luck stories in Britain today after the financial crisis of 2007-2008? Arguably, the extent and depth of the crisis in the financial services sector has been greater than that felt in other sectors of the economy. Consequently, the deleterious impact of the crisis upon workers’ terms and conditions as well as experience of work has been too. Compared to manufacturing, which was already experiencing decline and contraction, the fall from grace of the financial services sector has been quicker, steeper and more spectacular. The ‘health’ of the bankers’ bonus system may never return to quite was it was prior to the crash but after 2013 there was a revival in profitability and, thus, rewards for the top echelons. No such similar phenomenon was to be found lower down the pecking order.
Only full and proper state regulation of our financial and economic systems can prevent such a calamity from happening again. But it will also need state intervention in employment matters to protect workers’ interests and to support the creation of stronger unions to help in doing so. Currently, in Britain there is only one mainstream political party prepared to advocate such a course, and that is the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

For a book that unfortunately will be beyond the financial reach of many individuals, please consider getting your union branch, university library or public library to order a copy.
* Gregor Gall is professor of industrial relations at the University of Bradford

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The Virtue of Having Nothing to Say

Gilles Deleuze: “The problem is no longer getting people to express themselves, but providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people from expressing themselves, but rather force them to express themselves. What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, or ever rarer, the thing that might be worth saying.”
(Open access: Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Negotiations. Columbia University Press. P. 129)

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Great academic opportunities: 23 calls for papers, 5 job openings, 2 postdocs, PhD course, and summer school

Dear ES/PE community member, see below an abundant list of great and interesting academic opportunities: call for papers20 calls for papers for conferences and workshops, 5 job openings, 3 calls for contributions to journals’ special issues, 2 postdoc positions, PhD course, and summer school, — in various areas of economic sociology and political economy, with July 30 – August 21 deadlines. Several opportunities are partially or fully funded.
Share this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Spectrum of Communism” symposium, Central European University (Budapest, Hungary), November 16-17, 2017. No registration fee. DL: July 30

CfP: “Taking Issues In/With Cultural Political Economy: Neoliberalism, Democracy and Crises“, the Third International Cultural Political Economy conference and associated workshop for PhD students, Lancaster University (UK), 6-8 September 2017. DL: July 31

> CfP: “New global challenges of European regulation, institutions and policies“, the 3rd The Role of State in Varieties of Capitalism conference, Central European University (Budapest, Hungary), 30 Nov – 1 Dec 2017. DL: July 31 

> CfP: “Workplace Redesign: Spaces of Work and the Transformation of Industrial Modernity in Central Europe, 1848-1945” workshop, Masaryk Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Prague, 1-2 December 2017. Accommodation and travel costs will be covered for workshop participants. DL: July 31

> CfP: “Economics, Politics and Administration” international symposium, Dicle University (Diyarbakır, Turkey), 12-14 October 2017. DL: July 31

> CfP: “Intersections of finance and society” conference, City University London (UK), 2-3 November 2017. DL: August 1

> CfP: “Debt in History” conference,  University of Toronto Scarborough (Canada), 18-19 May 2018. DL: August 1

CfP: “Globalization and the Environment” workshop, Asian Development Bank Institute (Tokyo, Japan), 26-27 September 2017. The costs of flight and hotel will be covered, plus a small payment for one presenter of every accepted paper. DL: August 1

CfP: “Devolution and Decentralisation of Social Security in Europe: Dismantling the Welfare State or a Democratic Promise for the Future?“, the European Institute of Social Security and University of Groningen conference, Protestantse Diaconie (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), 2829September 2017. DL: August 1

> CfP: “Capital and the revolt against capitalism“, Historical Materialism Sydney Conference, University of Sydney (Australia), 7-8 December, 2017. DL: August 4 

> CfP: 3rd Annual Meeting of the Danish Society for Economic and Social History, Copenhagen Business School, September 28-29, 2017. DL: August 7

> CfP: “The New Subjectivities of Global Capitalism: Spirituality, Personal Development and the World of Work” international conference,  Sociology Department of Babes-Bolyai University, (Cluj-Napoca, Romania), 18–20 September, 2017. No registration fee; accommodations might be provided. DL: August 7 

CfP: “Society, Culture, and Sustainable Development in Ibero-America“, the 3rd Ibero-American Socioeconomics Meeting co-organized by SASE, Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). DL: August 15

> CfP: “Solidarities in Europe” workshop at University of Bern (Switzerland), 24-25 November, 2017. Travel costs within Europe and the accommodation cost of one overnight stay will be covered. DL: August 15

> CfP: “What to make of highly unrealistic models?” workshop, University of Helsinki (Finland), 12-13 October 2017. DL: August 15 

CfP: “Global Capitalism in the Americas“, The 4th Biennial Conference of the Network for the Critical Study of Global Capitalism, Universidad de La Habana (Havana, Cuba), November 1-3, 2017. DL: August 15

> CfP: “Ethnographies of Class in Central and Eastern Europe” International Conference, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (Bucharest, Romania), 28-29 September 2017. DL: August 15

> CfP: “Developing an Agenda for Fintech Research in Emerging Economies” workshop organized by Loughborough University and University of Malay, to be held in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), 31 October – 2 November, 2017 All travel and accommodation expenses will be covered. DL: August 20

> CfP: “Development of professions: Observed with Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory” conference, International University Centre (Dubrovnik, Croatia), 20-22 September 2017. DL: August 20

> CfP: “Colonial debts, extractive nostalgias, imperial insolvencies — Reimagining financialization” workshop, Goldsmiths University of London, September 22- 23, 2017. DL: August 21

Calls for papers for special issues:

> CfP: “Exploring the Emergence of Moderate Feminism(s) in Contemporary Organizations”, Gender, Work & Organization special issue. DL for full papers: August 21

> CfP: “Housing-Affordability“, Regional Science and Urban Economics special issue, DL for full papers: November 1 

> CfP: “Connecting the Dots between Management and Governance: A Comparative Corporate Governance Mechanism“, International Journal of Comparative Management special issue, DL for full papers January 20, 2018

PhD courses and Summer Schools:

> CfA: Co-op Governance School for Emerging Researchers, University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Canada), 2-5 October 2017. The School is designed for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students interested in social economy organizations. Applicants may be eligible for a stipend to offset travel costs. DL: August 13

> CfA: “Markets and Governance in a Post-Secular Society” PhD course, Copenhagen Business School, September 5-7, 2017. Recommended! DL: August 14 

Job opportunities

Fellow in Anthropology (full-time, fixed term), London School of Economics and Political Science. DL: July 31 

> Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Korean and East Asian Political Economy (permanent, full-time), King’s College London. DL: August 2 

> Lecture in Political Economy (Fixed term, full time), Goldsmiths University of London. DL: August 6

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in 20th-Century British Social and Economic History (permanent, full-time), Newcastle University (UK). DL: August 10

Chair in Regulatory Practice (permanent, full-time), Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). DL: August 11

Postdoctoral position:

Post-Doctoral Researcher in Political Economy, The Institute of Political Science at the University of Münster (Germany). DL: August 8

Postdoctoral fellow in Economic History (one or more three-year position/s), The department of Economic History , Lund University (Sweden). DL: August 20

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BITS & BRIEFS: Piketty and fellow economists // Why poverty clusters in city’s east // Tax Policy created the 1% // Civil rights and unionism // Consumption, debt, and personal well-being

>  Why Are Economists Giving Piketty the Cold Shoulder? Piketty questioned the very value of having a credentialed economics elite empowered to make policy in the name of the public interest but not answerable to public opinion — by Marshall Steinbaum

In so many cities, historically and currently,  poor districts surprisingly tend to cluster in the east. A study suggests a surprising reason: it’s about air pollution

The political history of capital gains tax in the US: boosting the wealthy and widening the racial inequality — by Julia Ott

> The Decline of Labor, the Increase of Inequality. In the wake of the civil rights movement and the second wave feminism of the 1960s, an effort started to integrate the race and gender struggles for equal rights with the ethos of trade unionism, but the timing was terrible especially for African-American women — by Rich Yeselson

Buying Alone: the rise in consumption and personal debt is due to an erosion of social and environmental resources, and a fall in people’s well-being — by  Stefano Bartolini, Luigi Bonatti and Francesco Sarracino

buy more stuff.jpg

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Pierre Bourdieu: Economism is a form of ethnocentrism

pierre bourdieuEconomic Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu is very rich and brilliantly enlightening, as well as non-univocal, and theoretically and intellectually multifaceted.
Reflecting on his great contribution to the field, which he preferred to call “Economic Anthropology”, his classic The Logic of Practice (1990; open access below) has recently sprung to my mind. In this book Bourdieu explores questions such as the interplay between structure and practice (a phenomenon Bourdieu describes as habitus), the manipulation of time, varieties of symbolic capital, and modes of domination, social categories of classification,  ritualized exchanges, and more.
In the following excerpt from The Logic of Practice, Bourdieu elaborates — in his unique way of writing — the concept of Economism, its logics and practices. As the great theorist, Bourdieu discusses the topic paving his own challenging trajectories and terminology. 

The ‘rational actor’ theory, which seeks the ‘origin’ of acts, strictly economic or not, in an ‘intention’ of  ‘consciousness’, is often associated with a narrow conception of the ‘rationality’ of practices, an economism which regards as rational (or, which amounts to the same thing in this logic, as economic) those practices that are consciously oriented by the pursuit of maximum (economic) profit at minimum (economic) costFinalist economism explains practices by relating them directly and exclusively to economic interests, treated as consciously posited ends; mechanistic economism relates them no less directly and exclusively to economic interests, defined just as narrowly but treated as causes. Both are unaware that practices can have other principles than mechanical causes or conscious ends and can obey an economic logic without obeying narrowly economic interests. There is an economy of practices, a reason immanent in practices, whose ‘origin’ lies neither in the ‘decisions’ of reason understood as rational calculation nor in the determinations of mechanisms external to and superior to the agents. Being constitutive of the structure of rational practice, that is, the practice most appropriate to achieve the objectives inscribed in the logic of a particular field at the lowest cost, this economy can be defined in relation to all kinds of functions, one of which, among others, is the maximization of monetary profit, the only one recognized by economism. In other words, if one fails to recognize any form of action other than rational action or mechanical reaction, it is impossible to understand the logic of all the actions that are reasonable without being the product of a reasoned design, still less of rational calculation; informed by a kind of objective finality without being consciously organized in relation to an explicitly constituted end; intelligible and coherent without springing from an intention of coherence and a deliberate decision; adjusted to the future without being the product of a project or a plan. And, if one fails to see that the economy described by economic theory is a particular case of a whole universe of economies, that is, of fields of struggle differing both in the stakes and scarcities that are generated within them and in the forms of capital deployed in them, it is impossible to account for the specific forms, contents and leverage points thus imposed on the pursuit of maximum specific profits and on the very general optimizing strategies (of which economic strategies in the narrow sense are one form among others). (p. 50-51)
Economism is a form of ethnocentrism. Treating pre-capitalist economies, in Marx’s phrase, ‘as the Fathers of the Church treated the religions which preceded Christianity’, it applies to them categories, methods (economic accountancy, for example) or concepts (such as the notions of interest, investment or capital) which are the historical product of capitalism and which induce a radical transformation of their object, similar to the historical transformation from which they arose. Economism recognizes no other form of interest than that which capitalism has produced, through a kind of real operation of abstraction, by setting up a universe of relations between man and man based, as Marx says, on ‘callous cash payment’ and more generally by favouring the creation of relatively autonomous fields, capable of establishing their own axiomatics (through the fundamental tautology ‘business is business’, on which ‘the economy’ is based). It can therefore find no place in its analyses, still less in its calculations, for any form of ‘non-economic’ interest. It is as if economic calculation had been able to appropriate the territory objectively assigned to the remorseless logic of what Marx calls ‘naked self-interest’, only by relinquishing an island of the ‘sacred’, miraculously spared by the ‘icy waters of egoistic calculation’, the refuge of what has no price because it has too much or too little. But, above all, it can make nothing of universes that have not performed such a dissociation and so have, as it were, an economy in itself and not for itself. Thus, any partial or total objectification of the archaic economy that does not include a theory of the subjective relation of misrecognition which agents adapted to this economy maintain with its ‘objective’ (that is, objectivist) truth, succumbs to the most subtle and most irreproachable form of ethnocentrism. […]
By reducing this economy to its ‘objective’ reality, economism annihilates the specificity located precisely in the socially maintained discrepancy between the ‘objective’ reality and the social representation of production and exchange. It is no accident that the vocabulary of the archaic economy is entirely made up of double-sided notions that are condemned to disintegrate in the very history of the economy, because, owing to their duality, the social relations that they designate represent unstable structures which inevitably split in two as soon as the social mechanisms sustaining them are weakened.” (p. 112-3)

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Stanford University Press. (open access)

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Academic conferences — a true story ;-)


See more memories of these unique intellectual fetes here and here 🙂  

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Yes We Got Money

That money talks, I’ll not deny,
I heard it once: It said, ‘Goodbye’.

(Richard Armour)

Yes We Got Money

“Yes We Got Money” by Klaus Langer


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BITS & BRIEFS: NY Fiscal Crisis and austerity politics // Capitalism v. Nature // Employer is more powerful than a state // On derivatives with Randy Martin // Currency without Central Bank

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

How bankers and technocrats used the 1975 New York Fiscal Crisis to permanently reshape the city: the early and exemplary case of imposing neoliberal austerity — an interview with Kim Phillips-Fein, an author of Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis And The Rise Of Austerity Politics

> Capitalism is a way of organizing nature… [It looks for] new parts of nature that have not been commodified or brought into the cash nexus” — an interview with Jason W. Moore, an author of Capitalism in the Web of Life 

How did employers gain power over nowadays workers’ lives that the government itself doesn’t hold? Miya Tokumitsu’s insightful reflection on James Livingston’s No More Work and Elizabeth Anderson’s Private Government

Randy Martin: “Derivatives emerge from the space between the measurable and the immeasurable”. McKenzie Wark analyzes derivatives and their logics through Martin’s intellectual contribution

The odd case of orphaned currency: Since 1991 Somali shillings are in circulation without Central Bank — by J.P. Koning


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Leveling mountains to define Corporate Liability

In the seminal 1909 case, New York Central R. Co. v. United States, 212 U.S. 481-499, the railroad argued that as a corporation it could not be held criminally liable for the unlawful acts (such as paying prohibited rebates to another company) of its managers. The US Supreme Court rejected this argument and discarded the previously common (in those years of The Robber Barons) viewpoint that a company cannot commit felony in its corporate capacity. Eventually, the Court held the railroad criminally responsible, quoting an incisive passage from a contemporary treatise:
If, for example, the invisible, intangible essence or air, which we term a corporation, can level mountains, fill up valleys, lay down iron tracks, and run railroad cars on them, it can intend to do it, and can act therein as well viciously as virtuously.” (p. 491)

The Sharp Method by J.A. Wales

“The Sharp Method” by J.A. Wales, 1990

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Great academic opportunities: 19 calls for papers, 3 PhD scholarships, 2 postdocs, 2 summer schools, a job opening, and a prize for a debut woman writer

Dear ES/PE community member, see below an abundant list of great and interesting academic opportunities: call for papers13 calls for papers for conferences and workshops, 6 calls for contributions to journals’ special issues, 3 doctoral scholarships,  2 calls for summer schools, 2 postdoc positions, a job opening, and a prize for a debut woman writer — in various areas of economic sociology and political economy. Several opportunities are partially funded.
Share this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

CfP: “Empire, Capital and Transnational Resistance” conference, University Brighton (UK), 13-15 September, 2017. DL: June 30

> CfP: “Markets, Metrics and Calculative Practice in Public Services” interdisciplinary workshop, University of Edinburgh (UK), 2-3 November 2017. There is a limited number of fee waiver for accepted PhD students. DL: June 30   

> CfP: “The making and circulation of Nordic models, ideas and images” workshop, he Norwegian University Centre in Paris, October 4-6, 2017. DL: June 30.

> CfP: “Challenges for Diverse Societies“, The 4th Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences interdisciplinary doctoral conference, Bamberg University (Germany), 20 – 21 September 2017.  Travel grants available. There are sessions on Labour Markets, Social Mobility, Regional Inequalities, Private Education, and more. DL: June 30 

> CfP: “Working Class Culture“, a research area at the Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association annual conference, Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA), 8-11 November, 2017. DL: June 30

> CfP: “Sustainability Governance“, Münster Junior Researchers Colloquium, Institut für Politikwissenschaften (Münster, Germany), 12 July 2017. No participation fee. Young scholars will also benefit from a workshop on methodological choices. DL: June 30

CfP: “Reshaping Work” conference, University of Amsterdam, October 19-20, 2017. DL: July 1

CfP: “Economic transformation in Cyprus and the Levant, 1850-1939” conference,  Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation (Nicosia, Cyprus), 3-5 November, 2017. DL: July 1

> CfP: “Policy making in hard times: Deregulation, Dismantling, and Compensation” workshop, Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (Spain), 15-17 November 2017. There is a number of grants for graduate students & early-career scholars from South-Europe, and PhD students & PostDocs from Germany. DL: July 15 

> The 5th Economic Sociology Conference, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business (Washington, DC, USA). DL: July 15 

> CfP: “Reassessment and perspectives of labour policies” international conference, University Roma Tre (Italy), 14-15 December, 2017. Extended DL: July 15 

> CfP: “The Case for Solidarity: Multi-Faith Perspectives on Basic Income” conference, Dominican Institute of Toronto (Canada), 20 October 2017. DL: July 15

> CfP and CfA: “Structural Transformation in Africa“, Review of African Political Economy’s three workshops for scholars and activists in Ghana (November 2017), Tanzania (April 2018) and South Africa (September 2018). 

Calls for papers for special issues:

> CfP: “Peak neoliberalism? Revisiting and rethinking the concept of neoliberalism“, a special issue of Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization. DL: June 30

> CfP: “Facing and Coping with Vulnerability“, a special issue of Research in Economic Anthropology. DL: July 4 

> CfP: “Contesting Markets: How Organizations and Social Movements Shape the Political Economy“, a special issue of Socio-Economic Review. DL: September 1 

CfP: “The Poverty of Academia: Exploring the (Intersectional) Realities of Working Class Academics“, a special issue of Journal of Working Class Studies. DL: September 1

> CfP: “From the mixed embeddedness approach to what? Migrant entrepreneurship at a glance“, a special issue of Sociologica – Italian Journal of Sociology (in English). DL: September 1

> CfP: “Exploitation“, a special issue of The Review of Social Economy exploring the conceptual, political and economic aspects of exploitation. DL: December 31

Summer Schools:

> CfA: “Urban Poverty: The Praxis of Planning in Unequal Cities“, Sapienza Summer School, Rome (Italy), 12-15 September 2017. DL: June 30

> CfA: A Training Course in Economic and Social History for postgraduate students, University of Manchester, 29 November – 2 December 2017. DL: July 17 

Postdoctoral positions:

> Postdoc position in the research project “Combatting Fiscal Fraud and Empowering Regulators” at University of Bamberg. DL: July 7

3 Postdoc Fellowships on “Conviviality in Unequal Societies: Perspectives from Latin America” at Merian Centre in São Paulo (Brazil). DL: July 9

Doctoral scholarships:

> The Economic History Society’s bursaries for PhD students in economic and/or social history, residing in UK colleges and universities. DL: July 1

> PhD position in the research project “Combatting Fiscal Fraud and Empowering Regulators” at University of Bamberg. DL: July 7

2 PhD Candidates in Business and Human Rights at the University of New South Wales, (Sydney, Australia). DL: July 21


> Virago and New Statesman women’s prize for politics & economics. The aim with this award is to find new and exciting women’s voices in the field of politics and economics: areas (particularly in economics) where female analysts are woefully under-represented in the media and nonfiction. This prize awards a debut woman writer £500 and a contract for a 20,000 word essay to be published as a Virago ebook, with an option to contract for a full-length book. DL: July 31

Job opportunity:

Professorship in Economic and Social History with a special research focus on World Economy in the 19th and 20th Century, University of Vienna. DL: June 30

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