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Past conferences

Food production has always been present in the economic debate on behalf of the concern about the relationships between the population growth and demographic changes. At this respect, one of the most famous references is the book  Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) written by the British economist Thomas Malthus that describes the unbalanced growth of food production in relation to the population rate of growth. The outcome of this unbalanced growth was seen as catastrophic because of the big deficit in food supply and the social problem of hunger. At that time, the population control was considered to be one of the proposals to face the food challenges. In spite of the Malthusian concern, new methods of food production have emerged which allowed the increase in food supply. Technological changes, however, have not occurred uniformly throughout the world. Indeed, some countries have managed to expand their production and trade surpluses while situations of hunger remained a reality in many parts of the world. In addition to technological factors in food production, other political and economic issues are involved in the access to food. Wars and conflicts prevent people from growing or purchasing food and promoted social vulnerability in situations of hunger. Other political issues involve the appropriation of land (land grabbing) by hegemonic groups, corruption, etc. In the economic field, although the Malthusian theory has not been proven to be true, there is a challenge in people’s access to food. Access to food  refers to the lack of financial resources preventing households to purchase food (mainly in urban areas) in addition to the lack of financial resources in small business to buy land and inputs,  and also to adopt modern technologies. In the 21st century, the scenario of changes in food production means that even with a larger supply of food, many people, mainly the poor ones, still live in a situation of starvation. Data from the United Nations World Food Program (World Food Program UN-WFP-UN) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization-FAO-UN) have shown that hunger has been greater in some groups such as women, children, especially in the rural areas of the world and in rural areas of Africa and Asia. Indeed,  the food challenges need to be discussed in the context of the promotion of social justice.
This conference will focus on various aspects of global accumulation, production and employment from a broader perspective of examining their interlinkages with other economic, social, and political processes. Concerns with social inclusion extend well beyond purely economic account of justice and fairness, since the degree of economic inequality also affects social cohesion and political stability, and can also have negative implications for economic growth and democratic institutions. Considering the current social and economic challenges, Peter Radford has suggested the need to constrain capital and make it work for all people. In his own words: ‘We can bend the arc of capitalism to our will if we wish”. In truth, this conference calls for a deep examination of current power, politics and economics in a social context where democratic institutions are being threatened. This attempt also involves critical thinking of theories of justice in light of applied challenges: What kind of justice should we bend the arc of global capital to? What are justice conditions and criteria, given the concern about capital accumulation, employment, and production? The broad themes to be covered are noted below; in addition, specific issues that could be taken up in both theoretical and empirical papers are mentioned, but these should be seen only as indicative suggestions. Papers falling within the broad topic of the conference, but on issues not specifically mentioned, are most welcome. We welcome contributions from social science and humanities researchers, policy makers, and students.
The purpose of the online Conference is to analyse the current crisis in the countries of the Eurozone. After the 2008 financial meltdown, the American crisis soon infected the European financial system, becoming both a sovereign debt crisis and a banking debacle in many peripheral Euro area countries.  The European crisis has shown that crisis can spread quickly among closely integrated economies. The implementation of austerity policies, prompted by the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF) have reinforced a spiral of economic contractions, and provoked a rising political rebellion against austerity, inspired in part (and especially in Spain, but also to a degree in Greece) by the successful exit from crisis of the South American countries in the past decade. The conference would like especially to address the questions of social stabilization, strategies for structural reform and economic growth, and monetary, financial and debt management that may be used to frame a new economic model for Europe.
The existing international financial architecture, left over institutions from the Bretton Woods period, proved useless to prevent or warn against the 2007-2008 crisis, or even less, solve it. Only when a new presidential grouping (G20) meeting was called for in London in March 2009, the issues of how to coordinate countercyclical policies and inject resources into the economies were discussed. At that time, a UN high level Commission was created to propose reforms to the international financial architecture. The results of what became known as the Stiglitz Commission came to light in April 2010; the Commission’s recommendations were, however, shunned by some large UN member countries due to their rejection of the principle of global solutions for global problems. Indeed, some European countries and the US still insist on national solutions, that is on the use of local regulatory agencies in the international financial field. Eight years have elapsed since the crisis emerged in 2007. There are no negative impact on the real sector as well as the financial sector is still being felt by leading financial institutions or Central Bank’s authorities. The major financial problems are dealt with at a national level in spite of being a global problem. Since 2010, the SEC has levied large fines against TBTF banks’ wrongdoings according to the definition of LIBOR, the commodity markets, the exchange markets and the fraudulent sale of collateralized debt obligations with credit risk approval from the three large American credit rating agencies; European regulators have done some of the same. Simultaneously, vulture funds attacked Argentina and made evident a nonsense of having the last creditor obtaining a better payment terms than the first one, breaking the usual understanding of the pari passu principle while a New York judge held the country hostage to his decisions. Finally all the G7 economies have come to reflect over 100% public debt on GDP ratios with only one approach to resolving this problem: austerity affecting economic growth, the price levels, and employment. As a consequence, debt indexes have increased sharply, depressing economic activity and prices. From this background emerges the need for a new international financial architecture.
Since the onset of the public debt crisis in Greece, the term ‘austerity’ rather than ‘fiscal contraction’, has prevailed in economic and socio-political jargon.  The fact that in 2010 it was the most looked up-word online indicates both its spreading use and its opacity.   The current use of the term is subject to certain theoretical fallacies, while it carries particular ideological undertones. The conference will focus on on the policies and politics of austerity and on the various aspects of the Greek crisis. Papers dealing with similar experiences in other countries that may bring light on the effects of austerity policies in Greece will also be considered.

Historically, changes in the orientation and the scope of the Brazilian government interventions have been associated with deep economic and social transformations. In the 1960s and 1970s, the economic outcomes were decisively affected by militarism that turned out to reinforce economic growth with social exclusion. It also led to increasing productive internationalization where key agents have been the transnational corporations from many developed countries. However, the so-called Brazilian model of development led to further concentration of income, wealth, and land ownership. As Celso Furtado pointed out, it was a false modernization as it benefited only a minority reinforcing the structural heterogeneity and inequality. After the 1970s, questions have been raised about the pattern of Brazilian industrialization that led to failed expectations. Those millions of Brazilians that had hoped for a fair and sustainable economy and society were disappointed by stagnant incomes and higher inflation.

Since the 1990s, Brazil has been subject to a new dependency where financial capital tends to dominate social and economic dynamics in a historical setting where the redefinition of the elites is part of the overall financialization process.  Consequently, as of the early 2000s, Brazil has been considered as a promising emerging economy by global institutions and investors. From 2000 to 2008, the expansion of the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—benefited from the combined commodity and credit cycle. During this period, Brazil experienced high rates of economic growth and was able to promote the inclusion of large portions of the population in the financial, labor and goods markets. As a result, the economy has experienced near full employment during the two years prior to the financial crisis. Income inequality dropped and inflation was kept under control. Interest rates trended downward. However, external imbalances grew and the manufacturing share of output declined while exports have been mainly driven by commodities. In this setting, the newly discovered underwater oil reserves are a major opportunity and challenge: whereas they can provide funds for investing in education and health services, they also raise the prospect of a possible Dutch disease.

Following the global crisis, Brazil has been seriously affected by the decline of commodity prices. In the last decade, Brazil did not improve key structural features of its economy leading to a sustainable business environment. The lack of long-term investments in infrastructure, for example, is part of the scenario that dampens the expectations around the sustainability of economic growth and social inclusion. As of 2012, only 1.5% of Brazil’s GDP goes on infrastructure investment from all sources, both public and private. To catch up, Brazil would have to triple its annual infrastructure spending for the next 20 years (The Economist, 28th September 2013)

In the aftermath of the global crisis, government intervention have supported aggregate demand and supported social inclusion. However, there are signs that the speed of the consumption and investment growth has been diminishing in a scenario characterized by inflation pressures, lower expectations of bank profitability and a diminishing rate of job creation, among other issues.  Considering the global economic integration, Inflationary pressures have put on pressure on domestic interest rates which attract “hot money” from international “carry-trade” operators and finance. Indeed, this attraction turns out to be considered necessary by the Brazilian government in order to address the trade deficit but renders the economy vulnerable to sudden changes in investor sentiment.

In this context, the long term sustainability of development, growth and social cohesion is called into question.

The Turkish economy and society have been the subject of neoliberal agenda since 1980, in the crucial first three years under conditions of military dictatorship.  Executed under the direct supervision of the IMF and the World Bank, the last three decades have witnessed an extensive shift in the Turkish pattern of development with the rise to hegemony of the neo-liberal orthodoxy dictating “market rationality” over any other form of collective decision-making. In the words of Bourdieu (1998)1, this infernal machine, termed neoliberal globalization, has sought to destroy all collective structures that are held as a hindrance to the profitability of private capital. Thus, trumpeted with the rhetoric of TINA (There is No Alternative) the neo-liberal orthodoxy introduced new rounds of conditionality as part of its hegemonic agenda: financial de-regulation, trade and capital account liberalization, flexible exchange rates, privatization, flexible labor markets, marketization of agriculture, central bank independence, fiscal austerity, and “good governance”. In contrast to the traditional stabilization packages that aimed at devaluation to restrain domestic demand, the new orthodoxy aimed at maintaining high interest rates for the purpose of attracting speculative foreign capital from the international financial markets. The end results in the Turkish context were the shrinkage and commercialization of the public sector in a speculation-led growth environment, and the transfer of decision-making relating the public sphere from constitutional institutions to “independent” supreme bodies of regulation, working under “global rules” of “governance”. Over this discourse, not only the macro economy, but all aspects of social/institutional infrastructure were subjected to “structural adjustment”.  Starting with a direct intervention to the legal system with a new constitution and a thoroughly revised Labour Law that radically limited the rights of the working classes and trade unions in the immediate aftermath of the military intervention, a series of administrative regulatory bodies were established, each with a specific task of specialization and with almost no democratic accountability.  Often accompanied by a set of appealing concepts including “governance”, “transparency”, “regionalization/localization/de-centralization”, the state apparatus has also been subjected to transformation in line with the strategic interests of national and international capital, in particular the so-called international finance institutions (IFIs). At the current juncture, the neoliberal project is implemented under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) with strong Islamist orientation and with the objectives of: transformation of the state apparatus; dissolution of the public sector under the pretext of “localization” and “democratization based on civil society organizations”;  commercialization and commodification of basic services such as health and education; and opening most of the basic needs of  society  to exploitative initiatives by both national and international capital. Over the three decades of neoliberalism, growth was both erratic and meager in comparison to the previous era of import- substituting/ planned industrialization (ISI).  Overall, average annual rate of growth was 4.3% during 1980-2011. This was well below the rates achieved during the earlier ISI period (1962-79) with 6.5%; or indeed the 4.9% average rate of the entire history of the Republic (1923-2011). Following the capital account liberalization of 1989, sudden stops and reversals of capital inflows led to two deep crises in 1994 and 2001 and a deep recession in 2009.  Turkey is currently trapped in a foreign debt-ridden structural  current account deficit (currently standing at 7% of GDP and rising), and a speculative, volatile growth environment subjected to the whims of international finance capital.
It is generally recognized that inequalities of various kinds have been exacerbated during the period of globalization. This is true of global/regional inequalities as well as within-country disparities, except in a few countries where very conscious policies have been taken to reverse this. Concerns with growing inequality extend well beyond issues of justice and fairness, since the degree of economic inequality also affects social cohesion and political instability, and can also have negative implications for economic growth and sustainability. This conference will focus on various aspects of inequality in South, Southeast and East Asia from the broader perspective of examining their interlinkages with other economic, social and political processes. This region is known to have been among the most dynamic in terms of income growth as well as structural change, and the evidence of increasing inequalities is also marked in several major countries of the region.
Alfred Marshall, in the eighth edition of his Principles of Economics, wrote that “economic conditions are constantly changing, and each generation looks at its own problems in its own way” (Marshall 1946 [1920], p. v.) Our generation is beset with many problems including climate change, a global financial crisis, a palpable disparity in income and wealth, and a health care crisis. These problems are mutually reinforcing and will only worsen. At the center, however, is the discipline of economics itself and economics education, which obfuscates the interrelationship of our problems, inures its students to human suffering and abnegates thoughtful discussion of the human predicament. Indeed, as E.F. Schumacher wrote a generation ago, “economics [and economics education] as currently constituted and practiced, acts as a most effective barrier against the understanding of [our] problems” (Schumacher 1989, p. 50). To date, calls for reforms of economics education within the neoclassical paradigm have been tepid, content with tinkering around the edges, adding less chalk to more talk, while leaving the bulk of the curriculum intact. We believe it is time for a radical reformation of economics education. We need real world economists to help solve our generation’s problems, and we need a real world economics to conceptualize our problems. But first things first: we needa radical reformation of the economics curriculum. We hope this conference will stimulate debate on the structure, content and reconceptualization of the economics curriculum. We also anticipate this conference will effectuate changes in the curriculum for the benefit of the profession and of ordinary people across the world.
“Are we looking at the right metrics in the right way”?  This will be the theme of a World Economists Association Internet Conference, 15 February-15 March 2013. Why? The track record of economists when it comes to predicting, anticipating or even analysing the consequences of the Great Financial Crisis is not impeccable. This might, at least to an extent, have been caused by economists who looked at the wrong statistics and/or did not understand the story these statistics told. Should they have given more attention and in another way to statistics on debt, for instance? Might their understanding of the crisis have been impaired by the statistics they used and the way they understood the patterns shown by these data? Did they misunderstand the Real Unit Labor Cost statistics, for instance, as they lost track of the essential macro- instead of micro-economic nature of such data, which means that aggregation problems might bedevil simple analysis? And do the statistics on ‘broad’ unemployment, available only since the end of 2011, show a relatively more dismal situation of the Southern European economies than the regular unemployment? And if so, why did economists not immediately start to analyse these new data in depth, but kept looking at ‘normal’ unemployment, instead? And why weren’t there any clear metrics showing ‘financial stress’, back in 2007, as there are now (at least in an experimental stage)?
It is not wrong to believe that recent financial crises and general discontent with the economy demand not just regulatory reform, but more fundamental reconsideration of the purposes, contexts, and methods of financial regulation. As contemporary policy discourse conclusively demonstrates, however, the emergence of fresh thinking tends to be hampered by more or less subtle anachronisms, patterns of thought that hardly describe the world and so obstruct the achievement of collective intentions.  If we were to redescribe the world, however, we could reconsider the politics of finance writ large. This conference of the World Economics Association aims to foster just such collective reconsideration of the social role of finance, and consequently, the regulation of financial markets.  A key difficulty, for any collective consideration of such a vast topic, is coherence.  How to make something cogent out of a call to rethink financial markets, which raises myriad concrete and specific issues? In an effort to provide some shared reference points for discussion, a hub for many spokes, this problematique sets forth three general and contestable suppositions for contemporary thought about the sensible construction of financial markets going forward.  This problematique then asks more specific questions in a number of contexts, which numerous talented scholars have been invited to address.  Of course, the participants may expand upon or take issue with the general suppositions, too.  And all of the proceedings will be available for public comment – the hope is that the set of contributions will coalesce into a broad yet trenchant consideration of the issues raised by contemporary financial markets, and by extension, political economy writ large.
Sustainability has many dimensions and is a challenge for both economists and other social scientists. The idea behind this online conference is to raise issues from and about fundamental perspectives, to broaden the dialogue through an articulation of alternative or complementary perspectives, and to provide policy advice. The focus is not just on so-called “tipping points,” but also on “missing points” in the sustainability dialogue.
The main subject of this inaugural conference in Economic Philosophy suggests to discuss: (i) the diversity of accounts and conceptions of complexity; (ii) different methods and approaches for introducing complexity into economics; (iii) the different economic and social issues complexity raises; (iv) how different traditions and school of thought understand and explain complexity; (v) and the ways taking complexity seriously can affect economics.
The conference will be led by Prof. John Davis (Marquette University) and Prof. Wade Hands (University of Puget Sound).
This conference is the first event in a series of  the WEA Online Conferences project Economic Philosophy