Department of Political Economy Seminar Series

Semester 1, 2016

Thursday 3 March 2016, 4:00 -5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Bruno Tinel
Universite Paris
Title: Creating a political economic community in France
Abstract: The precondition for a political economy community to exist inside the academic system is that political economists have to be able to enter the higher education and research system. This is not only an intellectual issue because institutions play a very important role. The French Association of Political Economy is trying to build such an area in France through the creation of a new academic department/discipline called "Economy and Society" which the orthodoxy is opposing.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 24 March 2016, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Donna Baines
McMaster University (CA)
Title: Moral Projects and Compromise Resistance: Resisting Uncaring in Nonprofit Care Work
Abstract: Debates on workplace resistance and dissent are a central aspect of Labour Process Theory, an important indicator of changing workplace relations, and a growing dynamic within restructured, contracted-out state services. This paper focuses on care work in the nonprofit social services and argues that resistance in the nonprofit/community sector is a series of compromises and moral projects. The nonprofit sector is a highly gendered sector with women comprising the majority of low pay workers, struggling service users and unpaid volunteers. Resistance in highly gendered contexts often contains aspects that differ from resistance in other, less gendered contexts. For example, resistance in the nonprofit sector often reflects the altruistic values-base of those working in the sector and resistance often targets a larger, uncaring society and government, in addition to employers as the focus of frustrations. Mirroring the contradictory relations of the contracted-out state that funds most nonprofit care, workplace resistance and dissent is an unstable equilibrium which can legitimize austerity, act as a catalyst to undermine it or both. Therefore, analysis of resistance and dissent in care work needs to be highly attuned to the finer points of gendered work and workplaces, the managerialism accompanying state funding contracts and the shifting impacts of what some now call ‘eternal austerity’. With the objective of extending Labour Process Theory and developing insights into the complexity of resistance in care work, the article draws on qualitative data collected in four nonprofit care workplaces and Ackroyd and Thompson’s three part Labour Process analytic frame to more fully explore these gendered dynamics.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 7 April 2016, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Rodrigo Acuña
Department of International Studies, Macquarie University
Title: Venezuelan Foreign Policy & Latin American Unification: Pushing back the Pink Tide
Abstract: During the last decade new regional institutions have appeared in the Americas challenging the historic role of U.S.-led bodies like the Organization of American States (OAS). Behind these new blocs, like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), has been an active diplomacy on the part of Venezuela, Brazil and other countries often coined the ‘Pink Tide’. With a return of the political right in Argentina though, and the low price for commodities like oil, Latin America’s push for greater economic and political independence from the U.S. is in jeopardy. Discussing these developments, Dr. Rodrigo Acuña will analysis the achievements and setbacks of bodied like UNASUR as well their possible continuation in future years.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 21 April 2016, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Yulia Maleta
Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney
Title: Advocating an ecofeminist sociopolitical economic model
Abstract: I aim to articulate a robust (eco)feminist sociopolitical economic model, pertaining to empowering women-led strategies, as a viable contender to decision-making platforms within global environmental movements. (This seminar also provides a platform to the finalization of my book- based on my PhD interviews with Australian women environmentalists). In relation to my interviews with Australian women members of eNGOs, the Greens party, grassroots organisations and academic institutions, my feminist methodological framework intersects hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity within an alternative empowering (eco)feminist sociopolitical model. Concerning hegemonic masculinity, women comment on the ‘aggressiveness’, ‘competitiveness’ and ‘hierarchical’ approach of some men in eNGOs and Parliament; however, they recognise and accommodate emphasized femininity through empowering women-led strategies, described as ‘more consensus-based’, ‘collaborative’, and ‘less hierarchical’. Through my participant’s critique of male centrism in the environmental movement and the unsustainability of current socioeconomic political structures, I illustrate women’s leadership and advocacy of sustainable solutions (in organisations, society and political contexts), in which they strive for more of a decision-making capacity to initiate reforms.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 5 May 2016, 4:30-6:00pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Elizabeth Humphrys
Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney
Title: Australia under the Accord (1983–1996): Simultaneously Deepening Corporatism and Advancing Neoliberalism
Abstract: The ALP and ACTU Accord (1983–1986) is usually understood as a corporatist project in conflict with, or opposition to, the advance of neoliberalism in Australia. This paper examines the relationship of the social contract to the vanguard period of neoliberal reform in Australia, focusing on the consensual incorporation of organised labour into a state-centred political project to revive capital accumulation after the economic crisis of the 1970s. It develops a theoretical framework regarding the state–civil society relationship, utilising the perspectives of Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci and Leo Panitch. The paper argues that Gramsci’s insights around the integral state can help us theoretically extend Panitch’s account of corporatism—allowing us to better delineate how, under capitalism, the political enwraps and overdetermines social developments. The paper argues the Accord and vanguard neoliberalism were internally-related elements of class rule, challenging the predominant view that they were distinct or competing policy frameworks. The coterminal relationship is described as simultaneously deepening corporatism and advancing neoliberalism. The paper argues this provides a more compelling account of the origins of vanguard neoliberalism in Australia, and the trajectory of the Accord, than presently exists in the scholarly literature.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 19 May 2016, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Robert Austin
Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney
Title: Rise and Demise: Latin American and Hispanic Studies in Australasia, from post boom to postmodernity

A spectre is haunting Latin American and Hispanic Studies (LAHS). Their Australasian elite has made it possible, as Marx once said of Napoleon, for “a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part”. Whilst this demise has its roots in the malaise of the late capitalist academy, LAHS’ path from rebelliousness and integration with the Left intelligentsia to a comfortable chair at the summit of the new conformism also has unique characteristics, which explain the paradox of its once-unthinkable subordination to the corporate managerial model.


Replete with elements of philanthropic interventionism and cultural imperialism, presumptions about the deaths of Marxism and the emancipatory metanarrative, as well as the exoticisation of Latin America as a laboratory at the service of stellar Western careers, the elite’s de-coupling of intellectual work from international solidarity work has been accompanied by direct collaboration among the LAHS elite with the dual projects of imperialism in Latin America and neo-colonialism at home. Whilst we agree with E.P. Thompson that there is never a Book of Answers, this study offers some modest insights into this rise and demise, and explores where the discipline might begin to recover its academic autonomy and develop an intellectual practice which confronts capitalist globalisation, rather than meekly acceding to TINA dictates and proliferating a springtime for sycophants.


Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 26 May 2016, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Social Sciences, University of the Philippines
Title: Libya as a Template for Syria
Abstract: It is no coincidence that the themes of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and humanitarian were motifs in the discourse(s) about Libya and Syria at the dawn of the Arab Spring. What happened to Libyan society is the future that was intended for the Syrian state and its society. The war and regime change project against the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in 2011 were the model for regime change in the Syrian Arab Republic. The opening salvos of both conflicts were launched by media campaigns aimed at justifying foreign intervention. The peaceful civilian protesters that the US and NATO intervened to supposedly protect in Libya were predominately armed rebels who had been preparing an insurgency before any reports about protests had emerged and the Transitional National Council (TNC) was formally established.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 2 June 2016, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Phil Toner and Mike Rafferty
Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney
Title: Financialisation of the Australian Construction Industry
Abstract: Over the last three decades the Australian construction industry, especially major head contractors and large private sector clients, have been increasingly influenced by financialisation. Three key drivers of financialisation in the industry are identified: innovation in financial instruments especially securitisation; construction principals and head contractors substantially divesting themselves of construction expertise to focus on financial management and a large decline in public sector share of construction investment and employment which has expanded the scope for private investment and construction firms. The principal effect of financialisation identified in the paper is to reinforce well-established tendencies towards risk shifting, especially through intensified use of non-standard forms of employment and subcontracting. Risk is shifted down the construction contractual chain onto parties that are least able to control and manage the multiple risks inherent to the construction process. This risk shifting generates contradictions which constrain productivity enhancing investment in the construction industry in workforce training, capital equipment and R&D. However, these contradictions and constraints on productivity growth do not necessarily under-mine long-run sustainability of this production model as financialisation opens up new sources of profit, notably for the finance sector, developers and head contractors.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 14 July 2016, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Simon Springer
University of Victoria
Title: Neoliberalism and discourse: politics between poststructuralism and political economy
Abstract: This talk explores the internal workings of capitalism’s most infamous contemporary offspring by unpacking the diverse interpretations of neoliberalism that have been advanced in academia. Advancing a discursive understanding wherein political economic approaches to neoliberalism are sutured together with poststructuralist interpretations offers a path in overcoming the ongoing ideological impasse. Reading neoliberalism as a discourse better equips us to understand the power of this variegated economic formation as an expansive process of social-spatial transformation that is intimately bound up with the production of poverty, inequality, and violence all across the globe. In examining how imaginative geographies are employed to discursively bind neoliberalism’s attendant violence to particular places and thereby blame its victims, reading neoliberalism through the lens of discourse reveals the concealment of an inherently bloodthirsty character to an ever-mutating entity that simply refuses to die.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]