Department of Political Economy Seminar Series

Semester 2, 2015

Thursday 6 August 2015, 4:00 -5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Tim DiMuzio
School of Social Inquiry and Humanities, University of Wollongong
Title: Debt as a technology of power
Abstract: The seminar will explore a number of pertinent questions on the theme such as - why is indebtedness under capitalism the near-universal condition? Why is it so interconnected and interwoven into the fabric of social relations? Is debt the great enabler or is it more important to understand debt as derived from the capitalist ownership and sabotage of money? Why aren’t democracies in control of their own money supply? And if they are not, who is? How are debt, credit and the creation of money central to understanding and perhaps transforming the social disorder of capitalism?

Tim DiMuzio will argue that debt is a technology of power and that understanding it as such can help us explain some of the prevailing social phenomena of capitalist modernity.

About the Presenter: Tim Dimuzio - research interests lie at the intersection between the history of market civilization, global capitalism and questions related to energy, the environment and global social reproduction.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 27 August 2015, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Shahar Hameiri
Murdoch University
Title: China’s rise and state transformation
Abstract: This presentation examines the contested and uneven transformation of statehood under globalisation as a crucial dynamic shaping the conduct of a ‘rising’ China. That states are becoming increasingly fragmented, decentralised and internationalised is noted by some International Political Economy and Global Governance scholars but is neglected in International Relations treatments of rising powers, China included. The presentation will critique this neglect, demonstrating the importance of state transformation processes in understanding emerging powers’ foreign and security policies, and their attempts to manage their increasingly transnational interests by promoting state transformation elsewhere, particularly in their near-abroad. While China is typically understood as a unitary, coherent state, including by most IPE scholars, in reality, the Chinese state’s substantial disaggregation profoundly shapes its external conduct in overseas development assistance and conflict zones like the South China Sea, and in its promotion of extraterritorial governance arrangements in spaces like the Greater Mekong Subregion.
About the Presenter: Shahar Hameiri is Associate Professor of International Politics and Fellow of the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University. His research interests intersect political economy and security studies, focusing especially on new modes of security governance in the Asia Pacific. His latest book, co-authored with Lee Jones, is Governing Borderless Threats: Non-Traditional Security and the Politics of State Transformation (Cambridge University Press, 2015). His research has also appeared in leading journals, including International Studies Quarterly, The European Journal of International Relations, Political Studies, and The Pacific Review. He tweets @ShaharHameiri.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 10 September 2015, 4:00-5:30pmpm
Presenter/Affiliation: Barry Carr
Title: Land, accumulation and resistance: writing the socio-economic and political history of tourism in Acapulco, Mexico, 1929-1970
Abstract: Academic studies of the history of tourism and leisure in Mexico (and most of Latin America) are scarce inspte of the enormous economic, cultural and political importance of tourism. Acapulco is perhaps the best known and most emblematic case of a tourism enclave with a lengthy history and major impact on both Mexico and North America. My talk introduces some of the key features of Acapulco's development as a tourist icon – concentrating on the period from 1927 until the mid 1960s. The expansion of Acapulco, took place on a number of fronts. Easily the most important of these was the intimate ties between tourism development and real estate speculation. In fact, while Acapulco’s boosters often talked about Biarritz, San Sebastian and Nice in Europe as the models on which it drew (hence the frequent references to Acapulco’s Riviera), the really important model, albeit one that was not always openly recognized, was the emergence of the Florida Atlantic Coast tourist resorts in the first three decades of the twentieth century. The development of hotels and tourism infrastructure in Acapulco was largely the result of a series of uncoordinated private sector investments over a period of 60 years, albeit that some of the pioneer investors were influential politicians and their cronies. Indeed, tourism was one of the most important areas in which a fragment of the new ‘revolutionary bourgeoisie' first consolidated a position in the private sector from the late 1920s onwards – partly through the increasingly politicised allocation of bank loans from development bodies like the Banco de México and Nacional Financiera, and through the distribution of profitable government contracts for infrastructure development (particularly road building). The logic of land speculation and capitalist development, however necessarily faced some serious obstacles in Acapulco that took the form of resistance by peasant beneficiaries of the land reform program of the Mexican Revolution and conflict between poor traders, merchants and providers of modest services to tourist visitors and city and national agencies over the latter’s efforts to modernize, sanitize and streamline the provision of these services.
About the Presenter: Barry Carr was born in London and received his undergraduate and postgraduate education at Oxford University. His teaching and research career began at the University of Glasgow and then, for most of the last four decades, at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia where he taught Latin American history and founded and directed La Trobe’s Institute of Latin American Studies. In 2006-2007 he established and directed La Trobe University’s Center for Mexican Studies. Since the summer of 2007 he has taught as a visiting professor at: El Colegio de México (2007), University of California, Berkeley (2008-2011) and at Fordham University in New York (2012). After leaving La Trobe University in early 2008, he has developed close links with the newly established Australian National Center for Latin American Studies (ANCLAS) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra and with the Institute of Social research at Swinburne University of Technology. His research interests have included: twentieth century labor and agrarian history of Mexico and Cuba; the development of Marxism and Communism in Latin America; the history of worker and social movement internationalisms in Latin America; the history of tourism and leisure in Mexico in the period 1880-2010; the development of transnational networks of radicals, revolutionaries, activists and exiles in the Greater Circum-Caribbean, 1920-1940. He is the author of 7 books and numerous journal articles and book chapters. Between 1995 and 2008 was the Managing Editor of the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies (JILAS- now JILAR).
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 17 September 2015, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Michael Bittman
Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney
Title: A pilot study of the experience of modern academic working life: Productivity increase or unsustainable intensification of work?
Abstract: Following a request to be studied, I have devised a ‘random time sampling’ study to measure how academics use their time and in particular how they use their employment-related time. The data is collected via smartphones. This talk will present preliminary findings from this study, revealing how many hours academics devote to their jobs, what days of the week and what times a day they do their jobs, as well as the extent to which they feel under time pressure, have manageable job demands and feel secure in their jobs. I believe this study has wider implications because of the spread of occupational settings employees are managed by targeted outcomes (performance indicators) but are given apparent autonomy over how these targets are met.
About the Presenter: Michael Bittman, is an honorary appointment in the Department of Political Economy. He is a former Professorial Fellow in Sociology at UNE. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and an internationally recognised expert on time use data. He has published on the sexual division of labour, intra-household bargaining, work-family balance, ICTs, children’s activities, and reliability and validity of time diaries.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 24 September 2015, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Bill Dunn
Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney
Title: Can there be a critical political economy of international trade?
Abstract: It is argued that critical social scientists should pay more attention to international trade. It is a major economic activity and one which raises important methodological issues. It is suggested in particular that progress towards a more adequate understanding of trade requires overcoming a pervasive methodological nationalism. Trade theory has largely remained the province of economists with even heterodox accounts tending to neglect broader social issues in terms of trade’s construction and consequences. Meanwhile, sociologists have paid the subject little attention, with national conceptions of society apparently rendering trade inter-societal and obviating the need to examine it as an intrinsically social activity. Marx’s professed method of political economy provides a useful starting point for an ordered rather than eclectic but also reflexive and critical social science of international trade.
About the Presenter: Bill Dunn - principal research interests are in the contemporary global political economy of labour and in Marxism.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 8 October 2015, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Mike Beggs
Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney
Title: Inflation and the making of macroeconomic policy in Australia
Abstract: The emergence of macroeconomics profoundly changed Australian economic policy after World War II. Though governments and the central bank pursued full employment, they soon found themselves contending with chronic inflation, and the instruments were often turned to restraint. My new book explains how the problem of inflation transformed policy between the 1940s and the 1980s, well before the era of the independent inflation-targeting central bank. It explains how inflation came to undermine full employment, how governments dealt with international monetary chaos, and how the central bank pursued restraint within a rapidly evolving financial system. This is a new interpretation of Australian policy history and a pre-history of neoliberalism.
About the Presenter: Mike Beggs - his research concentrates on the evolution of economic policy. His recently-completed PhD thesis deals with inflation and macroeconomic policy in Australia between the 1940s and 1980s.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 15 October 2015, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Agnieszka Althaber
Title: Men's Part Time Employment and Reforms of Employment Regulations and Family Policies in Germany
Abstract: Men are only a small minority among part timers in most countries of the world. This clearly indicates the persisting gender inequalities in the labour market. In this seminar Agnieszka Althaber examines how men’s part time employment has developed in Germany since the mid 1990ies along reforms of employment regulations and family policies. As well as showing how former institutional arrangements to reduce part time employment were liberalised, she provides a detailed breakdown of demographic, household and employment characteristics to show substantial differences between men in regular and casual part time employment as well as in full time employment. She argues that despite the policy changes institutional disincentives for part time employment prevail. However, occupation specific working conditions can facilitate men's engagement in part time employment.
About the Presenter: Agnieszka Althaber is PhD candidate at Freie Universität Berlin and researcher at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in the project group National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) where she is involved in the NEPS data collection on “Adult Education and Lifelong Learning”. Her current research focuses on gender inequalities in the labour market, especially on men’s part time employment, on occupation-specific working conditions, on work family interrelations, and on quantitative life course research and methodology.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Thursday 29 October 2015, 4:00-5:30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Benjamin Selwyn
University of Sussex
Title: The global development crisis
Abstract: Development theory and practice aims to improve and empower the lives of the world’s poor. Most development theories argue that these objectives can be achieved through rapid economic growth. Despite over 200 years of capitalist development, the majority of the world’s population live in poverty. In this presentation Benjamin Selwyn argues that mainstream development theory and practice is concerned, not with empowering the poor, but rather with making them profitable for capitalist firms and states. Capitalist development is destined to produce, not empowered peoples, but impoverished masses. Selwyn argues for a different strategy for achieving real human development - through Labour-Centred Development. Collective actions by labouring classes and their organisations, rather than economic growth, is the key to achieving a world free of poverty where peoples are empowered rather than enslaved by the need to be profitable. Examples of Labour-Centred Development are provided from across time and space.
About the Presenter: Benjamin Selwyn - main focus on International Relations and the formation, functioning and transformation of global value chains and their impacts on, and emergence out of, historical and contemporary processes of global development.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

Past seminars

26 February 2015 - 4 - 5.30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Professor Stuart Elden
Warwick University
Title: Foucault’s Third Course on Governmentality
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

12 March 2015 - 4 - 5.30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Dr Tim Anderson
University of Sydney
Title: From Havana to Quito: understanding economic reform in Cuba and Ecuador
Abstract: This paper considers the persuasive force of early impressions of other cultures, and the problems similar rapid impressions may pose for political economic analysis. Cuba and Ecuador are countries involved in substantial economic change yet, despite close ties between the two and some important common history, the processes of reform are quite different. Those differences are clearly conditioned by their distinct histories, yet political and economic modernism often misses that. One result is that processes of change are often poorly characterised and important misconceptions creep in. Through these two examples this paper argues that, when considering political economic change in other cultures, we should have regard to sufficient detail of their contingent histories and to the key ideas developed in relation to those histories. It also characterises the key features of reform in Cuba and Ecuador, noting some common misconceptions as well as achievements and challenges.
Click here to download the PowerPoint Slide in PDF
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

26 March 2015 - 4 - 5.30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Dr Ben Spies-Butcher
Macquarie University
Title: Can Care Work Help Us Change Track? Revisiting the post-industrial thesis and comparative welfare analysis
Abstract: The organization and provision of care work has been transformed in the transition to a post-industrial economy. This has particular implications for the organization of the welfare state and the division between public and private provision. While acknowledging the importance of care to understandings of welfare, Esping-Andersen earlier reaffirmed his ‘three-worlds’ categorization of advanced economies, arguing differences between national economic institutions remained relatively stable over time. This article re-visits Esping-Andersen’s analysis to examine how the growing economic importance of paid care may contribute to a broader reshaping of economic institutions, particularly in liberal welfare regimes. Citing evidence from across the advanced Anglo Saxon countries, but particularly Australia, it argues that the incorporation of care into markets poses particular challenges, which may allow for a greater level of political contestation, and thus for economies to transition between ‘worlds’. This analysis places care at the centre of important developments in the broader economy, and as a core concern of economic policy makers.
Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

16 April 2015 - 4 - 5.30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Associate Professor Melinda Cooper
University of Sydney
Title: Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and Neoconservatism
Abstract: As Governor of California, Ronald Reagan oversaw one of the earliest state-level attempts to reform welfare. Declaring that “intact, self-reliant families are the best antipoverty insurance ever devised,” Reagan implemented a series of welfare to work and family promotion policies that would later inspire Clinton’s efforts to “end welfare as we know it.” He was also amongst the first to revive the old “filial obligation” laws that made family members responsible for the welfare of the indigent under the Elizabethan poor laws. In the early 1970s, Reagan’s social policy was to the right of President Nixon, who was engaged in an expansion of the family wage. By the end of the decade, his particular combination of neoliberal and neoconservative perspectives had become the dominant response to stagflation.

Taking Reagan’s trajectory from state to federal government as a guide, this paper enquires into the role of family values politics in the rise of the new right. It argues that family values were not a peripheral feature of the politico-economic events of the period but are key to understanding the peculiar alliance of neoliberal and neoconservative tendencies that energized the Reagan revolution. The paper questions the now common-sense assumption that the rise of the new right can be understood as an unmediated reaction against the New Deal welfare state. Instead, it will be argued that neoliberalism and neoconservatism in their mature forms crystallized in response to leftist social movements that were themselves challenging the gendered and racial boundaries of the welfare state, as embodied in the family wage. The new right absorbed the leftist critique of the family wage, but reversed its terms: where the new left said no to normativity and yes to redistribution; the new right said yes to family values, and no to redistribution. In specific terms, the new right sought to replace the redistributive family values of the Fordist social wage with a renewed politics of family responsibility, inspired by an older poor law tradition of private family values. It is this common commitment to family responsibility that explains the otherwise surprising alliance between neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

Click here to download the flyer

Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

30 April 2015 - 4 - 5.30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Phillip Roberts
University of Sydney
Title: The Brazilian Landless Workers Movement: From Agrarian Reform to Post-Neoliberalism
Abstract: The Landless Workers Movement of Brazil (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST) has been one of the most successful working class organizations in the struggle against neoliberalism. Under the banner of demands for agrarian reform, land occupations by the MST have enabled over a million of Brazil's poorest to access land and establish farms. The movement itself has placed these victories in a broader context of the struggle for social transformation and an end to capitalism itself. However, Brazil has undergone significant changes under successive Workers Party presidencies. A new policy platform focused on neo-developmentalist measures has been installed in order to address the consequences of Brazil's neoliberal turn after 1990. The resultant shifts in the nature of class struggle posed by these changes may also have significant impacts for the MST, as Brazil embarks on a post-neoliberal turn. This presentation therefore uses a theoretical framework developed from the work of Antonio Gramsci to examine the nature of the changes to Brazil's political economy, form of state and class structure, before examining the status of the MST struggle against capitalist hegemony through one of its major projects. By examining the role of agroecological food production on MST settlements, I will evaluate whether the Landless Workers Movement has genuine potential to be a counter-hegemonic force in this new era.

Click here to download the flyer

Venue: Darlington Centre Boardroom, H02 [map]

28 May 2015 - 4 - 5.30pm
Presenter/Affiliation: Peter Thomas
Brunel University
Title: Revolutions, Passive and Permanent
Abstract: This paper will explore similarities and divergences between the notions of passive and permanent revolution in the work of Antonio Gramsci and Leon Trotsky. Although Gramsci himself explicitly rejected Trotsky's notion of permanent revolution as a reversion to a strategy of 'war of movement', he also claimed that his development of the theory of hegemony could be regarded as a contemporary form of Marx and Engels's notion of the 'Revolution in Permanence'. The paper will analyse the similarities and differences of the two seemingly divergent claims to inherit a central perspective of the classical Marxist tradition, and will argue that thinking the concepts of passive and permanent revolution together enables us to clarify and to make explicit dimensions that remain underdeveloped in each theorist's respective work.
Venue: New Law Seminar Room 020, F10 [map]