Department of Political Economy Seminar Series

Semester 1, 2017

Thursday 9 February 2017, 4:00 -5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Kean Birch
Toronto University and York University
Title: Contract, Contract Law, and their Implications for Neoliberalism as a Concept
Abstract: Contractual relations underpin markets, although different analytical perspectives define contracts in very different ways: e.g. economists define contract as 'reciprocal arrangements' while lawyers define contract as 'legally enforced promises'. This difference highlights a contradiction underlying neoliberalism as a concept, namely the emphasis on neoliberalism as a market-based order in which markets are installed as the main - or only - institution for organizing and coordinating society. In contrast, the history and evolution of contract law (in common law regimes like the UK and USA) illustrates the extent to which economic relations are configured by 'contracts' (in the legal sense) as opposed to 'markets'. Contract law has moved through several different approaches, leading to the current prevailing system which has dominated since the 1990s. As part of this so-called 'anti-antiformalism' perspective, the legal system has ended up both making and unmaking markets and market actors through the institution of contractual arrangements (e.g. standard contracts) and contractual assumptions (e.g. sophistication of market actors). As a result, for example, only certain social actors (e.g. business entities, professional groups) are deemed to be, legally speaking, also market actors. This has implications for how we understand neoliberalism as a concept and its political-economic implications more broadly.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 9 March 2017, 4:00 -5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Nicola Piper
University of Sydney
Title: Temporary Labour Migration in Asia: Protracted Precarity and Truncated Rights
Abstract: Our work analyses the patterns and dynamics of intra-Asia temporary labour migration and the dominant global and regional migration governance frameworks that sustain them. This analysis is itself informed by the concept of protracted precarity, which contests the assumption that migrant workers ‘move into’ conditions of precarious employment when they travel abroad by emphasising the existing forms of economic vulnerability within migrant-sending countries that condition the need for workers to seek foreign employment in the first place. We find that protracted precarity is shaped by structural inequalities throughout the global and regional economy and buttressed by institutional incapacity and lacking integration of labour governance within migration governance. The key argument advanced is that the dominant project of migration governance continues to fail in several key areas, reflected by decent work deficits in relation to labour rights, the nature of employment opportunities and lacking social protection at all stages of the migration process – i.e. a failure to realise migrants’ human and labour rights prior to migration, while abroad and upon return. Without adopting a holistic understanding of migrant precarity and its spatio-temporal dimensions, migration governance’s promise to benefit all parties will continue to ring hollow for temporary labour migrants themselves.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 23 March 2017, 4:00 -5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Bill Dunn
University of Sydney
Title: Marx, Keynes, and the classics: Towards a theory of unemployment that is both general and specific
Abstract: The paper argues that Marxism lacks an adequate theory of unemployment and can move closer to this through the critical appropriation of Keynesian insights. Both traditions recognise the reality and importance of unemployment but what Keynes sees as pathological is for Marx a normal, even healthy part of capitalism. Very different social ontologies militate against an easy synthesis. However, it is argued, downgrading the conceptual claims of the General Theory, seeing it as less general and more specific than Keynes claimed, allows its insights to be re-worked and embedded into a more general Marxist framework.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 13 April 2017, 4:00 -5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Elizabeth Hill
University of Sydney
Title: Women, Work and Care in the Asia Pacific: work/care regimes in a context of extreme inequality
Abstract: This paper will develop a comparative analysis of the social, economic, industrial and migration dynamics that structure women’s experiences of paid work and unpaid care work in the Asia Pacific. The analytical framework provides a multi-dimensional template for understanding and comparing the intersection between care and employment regimes across the region and the impact on economic growth and gender equality. The paper highlights how patterns of economic inequality across the region structure national work/care regimes and frame the politics of women’s work and care.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 27 April 2017, 4:00 -5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Rune Møller Stahl
Department of Political Science, Københavns Universitet
Title: Ruling the Interregnum: Economic Ideas and Authority in Non-Hegemonic Times
Abstract: With Brexit, the election of Trump and the rise of anti-establishment parties to the left and right, the neoliberal ideas of the global political elite have lost much of their legitimacy. While the hegemony of neoliberalism is severely challenged, no clear alternative has yet emerged. This paper investigates the current state of economic theory and governance through the concept of interregnum. While IPE theory has a set of different theories about periods of hegemony and paradigmatic stability, the periods between stable hegemonies are distinctly undertheorized. This is especially problematic as economic history shows that these periods of interregnum can span decades. The paper will argue that the notion of interregnum is distinct from the concept of crisis, and the paper develops a theoretical concept that describes periods of interregnum through four key criteria: 1) Absence of a stable elite consensus, 2) Institutional continuity, but decreased effectiveness of key institutions, 3) Realignment of social and class forces, and 4) Presence of competing economic strategies within the elite. The concept of interregnum is employed to analyse the changes in economic ideology that followed the breakdown of the post-war Keynesian consensus in the 1970’s as well as the current aftermath of the 2008 crisis.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 11 May 2017, 4:00 -5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Kurt Iveson
School of Geosciences, University of Sydney
Title: Crowds, clouds, and digital labour: Further adventures in the commodification of everyday urban life
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 1 June 2017, 4:00 -5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Jamie Martin
Department of History, University of Sydney
Title: Governing Global Capitalism in the Era of Total War
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]