Economics After the Crisis, by Irene van Staveren

Irene bookA year after the fall of Lehman Brothers, The Economist's headline proclaimed the end of modern economics. What has happened since? Well... almost nothing.

Mainstream and near-mainstream economic textbooks still sell like before. And INET has supported some initiatives that eliminate the rough sides of neoclassical thought and neoliberal policy advice. Very laudable initiatives, with, for example, Wendy Carlin's work on developing a new undergraduate curriculum CORE. But students of economics are not satisfied with these minor changes, so many years after the start of the financial crisis. Their Rethink Economics petition demands more fundamental changes to textbooks.

As a supporter of every single petition, pamphlet, op-ed, and plea for pluralism in economics before and after the crisis, I decided three years ago that I should practice what I preach. The result is Economics after the Crisis, a pluralist introductory textbook published by Routledge in January 2015. It offers a tool to understand the basics of economics from four theoretical perspectives either for use in the classroom or for self-study alongside a standard course book. The theories are presented in every chapter, micro and macro. And from interdisciplinary and close to real-world experiences to mathematically in an idealized world of perfect markets and agents following the single ethical guide of utility maximization. The book presents social economics, institutional economics, post Keynesian economics, and neoclassical economics and thereby shows that almost no economic concept or tool is theory-neutral. If only this message gets across, the book will have accomplished already more than I could hope for.

The window of opportunity to reform economic teaching is almost shut. Banks pass stress tests in Europe and the US while still being too big to fail. Nobel Prizes are awarded to economists who show no effort at all in rethinking economics. And economic policies ignore the danger of continuously increasing private and public debt, while shifting the consequences of such myopia on disadvantaged groups and whole populations.

If it is not now, we may have to wait for the next crisis to change economic thinking and teaching. I truly hope that the combined efforts of critical economists, activist students, and courageous teachers will help to make the change. We cannot afford to standby any longer.

* * * * *

IreneIrene van Staveren is professor of Pluralist Development Economics at the Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She was awarded the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Thomas Divine award by the Association of Social Economics.


"Pluralism Now!" petition from the French Association of Political Economy

A message from Bruno Tinel of Université Paris:

The French Association of Political Economy is now launching an international campaign called "Pluralism Now!"

Please sign the petition (there is also some contextual and background information at the link).


Call for papers: ASE at the Southern Economic Association

Call for Submissions for the Southern Economic Association Conference
New Orleans, November 21-23, 2015

The annual conference of the Southern Economic Association will be held at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, LA during November 21-23, 2015 (Saturday-Monday). The Association for Social Economics will host one or two sessions at the Southern meetings this year. Research oriented towards the labor market, health, education, poverty, family structure, and welfare of the general population in the U.S. as well as in any other parts of the world are especially welcome.

Email submissions must include the author's (and co-author's) name, affiliation, address, fax number, phone number and email address. The title of the paper and two JEL code classifications should also be attached with the proposal.

Please submit your proposals to Dr. Aparna Mitra (amitra@ou.edu) by April 1, 2015.


Call for papers: "Rethinking Economics," IIPPE’s Sixth International Conference in Political Economy

“Rethinking Economics: Pluralism, Interdisciplinarity and Activism”

University of Leeds, UK

September 9-11, 2015

Call for Papers – Panel organised by Social Capital Working Group

Social Capital: Re-capturing the Collective Dimensions of the Economy for a More Pluralist and Interdisciplinary Economics

Asimina Christoforou, Athens University of Economics and Business
Luca Andriani, Birkbeck, University of London

Social capital, identified generally as trust, norms and networks, is often studied for the ways it can facilitate cooperation for individual well-being and social welfare. Yet critical views of social capital claim that even though the concept was applied to underscore aspects of collective action, it provided economists and institutions oriented toward the neoclassical tradition with the means to promote individualist and instrumentalist perceptions of social capital that overlook collective dimensions of the economy. Nonetheless, there have been many attempts to re-contextualise and re-operationalise the concept of social capital in order to incorporate its collective aspects on the basis of alternative principles of human behaviour. Generally these attempts support the collaboration of scholars in various disciplines and the application of different approaches and methods, and aspire to restore the pluralist and activist features of the economy and economics.

These collective dimensions, characteristic of social and scholarly discourse (even more so in the social sciences that study human behaviour), can pertain to: the social and institutional embeddedness of the economy; the pluralism of needs, priorities, values and attitudes; the complex processes of participation and coordination, struggle and debate, collaboration and consensus between diverse and conflictual interests in both the public and private spheres; and the combination of multiple meanings and principles, and thus of various disciplines and perspectives of social science research, aiming at a more realistic and holist understanding of the economy.

In this context, we would like to invite contributions that re-address the concept and measures of social capital in a way that enables us to incorporate the complex reality of social relations, as a dynamic space where people interact, define and pursue, individually and collectively, principles and objectives, means and ends for well-being. Such alternative perceptions have the potential not only to helps us rethink the ways we see social relations, but also the way we see the economy and economics.

Thus, we encourage contributions that not only deal with the ontology and methodology of social capital, but also examine how this can become a vehicle to re-capture the collective aspects of the economy and economics. Included are contributions that focus on how networks, organisations, and various collectives can impact the way we perceive the economy and economics and become advocates of pluralism, multiplicity and activism. We welcome works that derive from various social science disciplines and use different units of analysis (individual, regional, country or cross-country level), methodologies and techniques (theoretical, empirical, qualitative and quantitative).

Abstracts (500 words maximum) should be submitted to Asimina Christoforou (asimina.christoforou@gmail.com) and Luca Andriani (luca.andriani@bbk.ac.uk) by March 25, 2015.


Robert Prasch, RIP

From the ASE listserv...

PraschIt is very sad to report that Robert E. Prasch, professor of economics at Middlebury College, has died unexpectedly.

Bob was a heterodox economist, an institutionalist (a past president of the Association for Evolutionary Economics), a post-Keynesian, a social economist, an economic historian, and an historian of economics.  He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Colorado at Boulder in economics and history, earned a master’s in economics from University of Denver, and earned a Ph.D. in economics from University of California at Berkeley. 

In addition to his over 80 book chapters, reviews, and journal articles, he published How Markets Work: Supply, Demand and the ‘Real World’ in 2008, co-edited Thorstein Veblen and the Revival of Free Market Capitalism with Janet Knoedler and Dell Champlin in 2007, and co-edited Race, Liberalism, and Economics with his wife and Hampshire College philosopher Falguni Sheth and Middlebury colleague David Colander in 2004.  Bob was in the process of finishing two books: “A Wage of Her Own: The Rise and Fall of Progressive Era Minimum Wage Legislation for Women: 1913-1923” and “The Political Economy of Empire.”  After the financial crisis, he regularly lectured at Middlebury on “Why Financial Markets May Not Be Self-Stabilizing.”

Bob was a progressive economist, a pluralist, and an outgoing, kind and generous person.  He will be truly missed. 


Morgan & Sheehan, "The Concept of Trust and the Political Economy of John Maynard Keynes, Illustrated Using Central Bank Forward Guidance and the Democratic Dilemma in Europe"

ROSETrust is an issue to which Keynesians and post-Keynesians have paid relatively little attention. However, properly understood it is an aspect of almost all activity, including key elements of socio-economic reality. Without trust, market exchange is at the very least problematic, if not impossible. Moreover, trust is intrinsic to a variety of issues with which Keynes, and subsequent Keynesianism have been concerned. In this paper we provide a general social theory conceptualisation of trust and then set out some of the areas where this concept resonates with the work of Keynes in terms of the role of conventions. Conventions quintessentially involve trust and that trust can be unstable, can be withdrawn and can require rebuilding. We illustrate this with reference to central bank policy and the Bank of England's introduction of Forward Guidance. Exploring the problem of trust in the context of banking also highlights a challenge for the continued relevance of Keynes' work. We now live in a neoliberal world and this provides a quite different context for state intervention than was previously the case. Keynes' work is now an argument for the alternative, and as such it requires more than a technical economic argument, it must also address the problem of trust in state policy-makers. We briefly illustrate the challenge this poses with reference to Europe.

Jamie Morgan & Brendan Sheehan, "The Concept of Trust and the Political Economy of John Maynard Keynes, Illustrated Using Central Bank Forward Guidance and the Democratic Dilemma in Europe," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 113-137.


Dunlap, "The Expanding Techniques of Progress: Agricultural Biotechnology and UN-REDD+"

ROSEThis paper provides a comparative analysis of agricultural biotechnology and the United Nations program for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). Despite the existing differences between the technical manipulation of biological systems and a conservation program aimed at reducing carbon and protecting forests, the two share commonalities in ideological origin, application, and values. Presented as positive developments, both seek to address large-scale issues such as global hunger and climate change, but while receiving national and international support they remain controversial issues. Both issues are critically assessed, beginning with a brief history, followed by the application of William Dugger's four invaluation processes: contamination, subordination, emulation, and mystification. This approach unravels the subtle social power of state and market forces that seek to control genetic material and forest frontiers as new outlets for growth and investment.

Alexander Antony Dunlap, "The Expanding Techniques of Progress: Agricultural Biotechnology and UN-REDD+," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 89-112.


Call for papers: Association for Social Economics sessions at 2016 ASSA meetings



Allied Social Science Associations Annual Meeting
San Francisco, CA, January 3-5 (Sunday to Tuesday), 2016

THEME: Financialisation, Ethics, and Sustainable Development


The events in 2007-2008 have brought financialisation, that is "the increasing importance of financial markets, financial motives, financial institutions, and financial elites in the operation of the economy and its governing institutions" (Epstein 2001) to the attention of millions of people. Today some key questions are still unanswered. Will the actors, institutions, and policies of financial markets that led to the financial crisis and the related Global Crisis be tamed once and for all? Or have we entered a new age of capitalism, where financial motives and financial actors define not only the regime of accumulation and the ascendency of 'shareholder value' as a mode of business governance, but dominate everyday life, from housing and pensions to the culture of individualism and market competition? Furthermore, what is the proper function of financial goals and financial institutions in the achievement of sustainable development? What role do ethics play in shaping these goals and institutions?

For the ASE sessions at the 2016 ASSA meetings, we welcome proposals for papers on all aspects of social economics, especially those dealing with the nature and consequences of financialisation on our society and the natural environment. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

* Financialisation and inequalities: Has financialisation affected the gender, race and occupational stratification of our societies? How do group inequalities and personal and social identities influence sustainable development?

* The financialisation of the environment: What is the relation between finance and the depletion of the natural environment? Is that relationship sustainable in the long run?

* Lehman Brothers versus Lehman Sisters: What have we learned from the 2007-2008 financial crisis and related Global Crisis?

* Financialisation and corporate governance: Has anything changed in the last few decades? Can theories and practices of Corporate Social Responsibility address social, environmental and economic sustainability?

* Finance, development and global governance: How has financialisation affected developing countries and the international monetary system?

* From financialisation to de-financialisation: Could the financial sector be restructured to enhance social, environmental, and economic development? Would this require a paradigm change in economics and policymaking?

To submit a paper or a session, please go to the proposal submission area of the ASE website (under Conferences > ASSA > Proposal submissions): http://socialeconomics.org/?page=conferences&side=assa&sub=proposal_submission 

Proposals should include a 250-word abstract, all authors' names and institutional affiliations, and contact information for the corresponding author including email address. Proposals for complete sessions are also welcome. Submission deadline is 1st May 2015.

Individuals whose papers are accepted for presentation must either be or become members of the Association for Social Economics by July 1, 2015, in order for the paper to be included in the program. Membership information can be found at www.socialeconomics.org.

All papers presented at the ASSA meetings are eligible for the Warren Samuels Prize, awarded to the best paper that advances the goals of social economics and has widespread appeal. Papers can also be considered for a special issue of the Forum for Social Economics. Details of these opportunities will be sent to authors of accepted papers.

Shelkova, "Low-Wage Labor Markets and the Power of Suggestion"

ROSEThe paper argues that a non-binding minimum wage may serve as a focal point which facilities tacit collusion by low-wage employers, effectively pulling down wages of the lowest-paid workers. This can explain the puzzle as to why the minimum wage does not reduce employment, as predicted by the traditional economic theory. A simple game-theoretic argument explains when collusion emerges. The hypothesis is tested using the 1990–2002 CPS data on service occupation workers. The results suggest that during this period, on average 19.3%, and as much as 31% of service occupation workers, who earned minimum wage or less, could had been affected by collusive wage-setting.

Natalya Shelkova, "Low-Wage Labor Markets and the Power of Suggestion," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 61-88.


Cooper, McCausland & Theodossiou, "Is Unemployment and Low Income Harmful to Health? Evidence from Britain"

ROSEThis study investigates how unemployment and income influence the length of time an individual remains in good health. This is a complex relationship since unemployment or low income deteriorates health but poor health can become a barrier to obtaining higher income or gaining re-employment. Data are from the British Household Panel Survey, using two measures of physical health: an index of mobility problems and a measure of self-assessed health. The results show that unemployment, low income and poor education adversely affect the time that people remain in good health. These results have important implications for public policy, particularly in an age of austerity when social protection mechanisms are under threat. In fact, the results suggest that to improve health and reduce health inequality, more investment needs to be directed at policies that enhance labour force participation, improve education and reduce income inequality.

David Cooper, W.D. McCausland & Ioannis Theodossiou, "Is Unemployment and Low Income Harmful to Health? Evidence from Britain," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 34-60.