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Political Economy: Pluralism, International Trends and National Differences – IIPPE’s 7th Annual Conference

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By Al Campbell

IIPPE’s Seventh Annual Conference in Political Economy took place at the School of Economics & Management (ISEG) at the University of Lisbon, September 7 – 9. With Political Economy understood as alternatives to mainstream economics that study the way humans socially organize to provide for their material needs and the effects on them of that organization, this year’s conference focused on the one hand on national and regional differences in Political Economy, and on the other hand on important world-wide trends in it. Participation jumped 50 percent above our highest previous level. Was it the deteriorating (except for the rich) world economy, or was it the attraction of beautiful (and militant) Lisbon? There were 84 academic panels, presented by 323 participants. In addition, the activist part of the program expanded greatly over the previous year. There were 13 activist panels, presented by 31 participants (a few people presented on both academic and activist panels). There were 16 films comprising 7 of the activist panels, that ranged in length from shorts of 3 and 4 minutes to full length documentaries of 110 and 98 minutes.

The host institution is an important center for heterodox research and anti-neoliberal policy proposals in Portugal, alongside the work of its more mainstream members. As is usual at IIPPE annual conferences, the mechanics of the operation of the conference depended on the participation of students from their program, and from neighboring institutions, who are interested in heterodox political economy.

The first plenary session was “Current Currents in Political Economy.” Diane Elson presented “The Political Economy of ‘Economic Inequality’ and ‘Gender Inequality” and Malcom Sawyer presented “The Contributions of Political Economy to the Understanding of Financialisation.” The second plenary was “National Developments in Political Economy.” Aleksandr Buzgalin presented “Prolegomena to New Qualities and Limits of the Market, Money and Capital. Post-Soviet School of Critical Marxism” and Samir Amin presented “Reading Marx’s Capital, Reading Historical Capitalisms, the Challenge Today.” The closing plenary, organized as traditionally by the Local Organizing Committee, was “We Told You So: the Centrality of Political Economy.” Nuno Ornelas Martins presented “Political Economy and Hegemony: Comparing the Surplus Approach and the Scarcity Approach” and Ana Cordeiro Santos presented “A Research Program for Financialisation: Reflections from the Portuguese Case.”

As in past years, the 3 day conference was preceded by a daylong Training Workshop directed to fundamental theoretical issues in heterodox political economy. This year it was on “Value and Price.” These Workshops are directed particularly toward young scholars, who in most graduate economics programs today get less and less exposure to theoretical issues in political economy, and instead more and more training in mechanical and technical issues of mainstream economics. Notwithstanding this orientation of the Workshops, this author can certify from attendance that the material can also be of great interest to at least some like myself who through no stretch of the imagination could be classified as young, and do have a strong background in the topic presented. The Workshop was coordinated by Simon Mohun.

The Thursday night Conference dinner was in the city center near the Restauradores Square at Casa do Alentejo, a picturesque 30 minute walk for those so inclined from the conference venue.

The social programme, which follows the conference proper every year, seeks to provide a space where people can meet and discuss their research in a relaxed, informal environment. This year’s social programme was organised round the theme of Portugal’s twentieth century revolutionary past. The first part of the daylong event consisted of a tour of the Museu do Aljube-Resistência e Liberdade. Housed in a former prison facility near the cathedral, the fascinating permanent exhibition chronicles the rise of fascism in Portugal and the subsequent struggle for freedom, democracy and a progressive social-political-economic society. This began with an informative presentation to our group by the director of the Museum. The second part of the programme was a walking tour of Lisbon, that in addition to explaining its history, culture and architecture, visited a number of the places at which important events in the twentieth century struggles occurred, setting the stage for further presentations on those events.

Next year’s 8th Annual Conference in

Political Economy will be in Berlin,

September 13 – 15, 2017

It will be co-sponsored by the International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy (IIPPE), the Critical Political Economy Research Network (CPERN) and the hosting institution, the Berlin Institute for International Political Economy (IPE).

From: p.5 of World Economics Association Newsletter 6(6), December 2016

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