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International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy

Fourth Annual Conference in Political Economy

“Political Economy, Activism and Alternative Economic Strategies”
July 9-11, 2013

International Institute for Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands


About the Conference

The financial crisis revealed its first signs over five years ago, on August 9, 2007, when BNP Paribus suspended payment on three of its funds. It has since morphed into the deepest US and then world economic crisis since the Great Depression. The “green shoots” of recovery of some Third World economies, that the IMF had acclaimed in 2010, had withered within a year. By 2012 it was admitted that the “world recovery had stalled”, as even the handful of large, better-performing, developing economies slowed. But, ever upbeat except when imposing adjustment, the IMF predicts not only an improved 2013 but continual yearly growth over the following four years as well.

Yet, the world’s largest economy remains stuck. While even the weak economic growth in the USA looks good by comparison with Europe, measured unemployment remains around 8%. Home loss, homelessness, poverty and hunger remain at their highest levels in decades. Nor is there a prospect of a recovery across Europe. The northern economies, and especially Germany, that until now have performed better in the core- periphery division of the continent, have stagnated, inevitable perhaps given the prolonged implosion of the economies of their most important foreign customers. There is a particularly severe crisis of youth unemployment. And the stagnation of the economies of the First World has caused a sharp slowing of growth in their BRIC counterparts and the few other better-performing Third World economies that the recovery Pollyannas had projected for several years as the engines that would drive the world rebound. Popular discontent has manifested itself in varieties of ways, from the Arab Spring to the renewal of Latin American left radicalism. In the global North, it has erupted in the form of the movements of the Indignados in Spain, Occupy Wall Street in the USA, and popular resistance in Greece. Whilst the Greek political system has been transformed beyond recognition but without resolution of the ongoing economic and political crisis, action in the rest of the North has appeared to have limited lifespan and effects, even with polls showing very high dissatisfaction with the current economic and political situation. It is striking how no broadly supported political movements have arisen, successfully promoting and engaging in a struggle for alternative economic policies. And, in their absence, finance has slowly , if not rapidly, and surely restored its economic, political and ideological hegemony over everything from our daily lives to our longer-term prospects, from the environment to our social and economic prospects.

The ongoing economic and political crises place two related questions on history’s agenda. In the face of the dismal failure of the continuing, mostly overt neoliberal policies to resolve the deep problems, what alternative economic strategies should be pursued? And a more radical form of that same question, are alternative economic structures and an entirely different system of economic structures and practices necessary? The second question is concerns the sorts of actions that must be engaged to move the political process on to a path of alternative outcomes, from mild reforms to major transformation (and the connection between the two).

The 2013 Annual Conference of IIPPE will focus on these questions. In doing so, it will need to acknowledge: the breadth and depth of discontent and the more or less spontaneous protest and conflict against the consequences of the crisis; how struggles have been conditioned by the crisis and the failure to resolve it without either determining their form and strength, their diversity and their complex dependence on non-economic factors; and the lack of strength, unity and coherence of oppositions and posing of alternatives. In this light, the conference will bring together scholars from all strands of political economy and heterodox economics, in seeking to engage debate with political parties and other progressive organisations in order to explain the incidence of struggles and how they might best be supported in bringing about broader, deeper and more unified responses to the crisis. In particular, it will be necessary to interrogate how continuing general conceptualisations, such as financialisation and neoliberalism, can (or cannot) be put to these purposes, when set against the diverse experiences of, and response to, the crisis.


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