[Conference 2013 CfP] The Minerals-Energy Complex, MEC, and Comparative Industrialisation Working Group


Whilst the MEC was first put forward as a way of understanding the character and trajectory of the South African economy, it has been associated with broader issues such as the nature of specific systems of accumulation, national or otherwise, and with comparative study of industrialization. Consequently, this conference stream intends both to explore the continuing relevance of the MEC as a way of specifying the South African economy and to locate such analysis in a comparative context. There will be six panels, briefly introduced below. For each panel, proposals for papers are welcome although each of the panels also may be filled out by invited papers, especially from those who are members of the Working Group. Some of the panels below may extend to more than one session (there is a maximum of nine panels for a stream). Those papers for which there is not room within the stream will be considered as general submissions to the conference.

Please submit proposals, with “abstract submitted iippe2013” in the subject line, to iippe2013@iss.nl and to one or other of panel convenors as relevant as listed below.

Panel 1: Locating the MEC

The idea of the MEC was first put forward in the late 1980s but was first more fully specified in the classic 1996 contribution of Fine and Rustomjee, The Political Economy of South Africa. A complete rewriting of that volume is now in hand, revisiting its original contribution and bringing its analysis up to date to account for developments over the post-apartheid period. Presentations will be made from the authors, Sam Ashman, Ben Fine, Susan Newman and Zavareh Rustomjee, as well as others in response and in critically engaging with the notion of the MEC itself, given that it has taken on multiple and amended meanings (including, for example respecification as the Minerals, Energy and Finance Complex). Papers examining all aspects of the past, present and future of the MEC will be welcomed.

Contact and submission to iippe2013@iss.nl and bf@soas.ac.uk with “abstract submitted iippe2013” in the subject line.

Panel 2: Reconstructing Labour

Not only with orthodoxy, as human resource management has displaced industrial relations, but also more generally, the role of labour has increasingly, other than possibly as an imperfect market agent, been neglected as neoliberalism has itself encouraged us to look critically at what capital does, as opposed to labour. This has also been true of understandings of the MEC despite its history of compound and racialised labour and the startling events attached to Marikana and their corresponding underlying causes. The conflicts between labour and capital, and the different forms they take, reflect the underlying social relations of production that constitute capitalism. The nature of these conflicts is framed by, but also influences, the industrialisation and accumulation patterns of a particular political economy setting.  Yet, as observed, labour is often treated as an abstract and homogenous entity and reduced to a passive and depoliticised role whereas this needs to be traced from production itself, narrowly conceived, through to economic and social reproduction as a totality. Exploring the specific labour dynamics in different sectors and settings, not least at the heart of the ‘hidden abode of production’, can help raise appreciation of: the importance and role of labour in the capitalist development process; and the connections between the labour process(es) and the nature and reproduction/transformation of the underlying/associated accumulation structures.

This panel welcomes contributions that focus on understanding the position and developments relevant to labour both within South Africa but within a broader economic, policy and theoretical context and across comparative analyses. These could include case studies of specific sectors, explorations of the way in which the labour process and capital-labour tension are reflected in, or interact with, the broader processes of industrialisation and economic and social reproduction, as well as explorations of the role of policy or theoretical perspectives interrogating the role of labour dynamics.

Contact and submission to iippe2013@iss.nl and Nicolas.Pons-Vignon@wits.ac.za and lottatakala@hotmail.com with “abstract submitted iippe2013” in the subject line.

Panel 3: Comparative Industrialisation

South Africa’s industrialisation is deemed to have taken particular forms over time as a result of the nature and influence of its MEC. This panel will seek to draw upon the MEC understanding of South Africa by drawing out broader implications for understanding particular systems of accumulation over time in specific countries or sectors, and as part of a global political economy. Individual case studies will be welcome irrespective of whether they draw directly upon comparison with South Africa or deal with South Africa itself exclusively.

Contact and submission to iippe2013@iss.nl and  newman@iss.nl with “abstract submitted iippe2013” in the subject line.

Panel 4: From Apartheid to Marikana

The massacre by police of 34 striking miners at Marikana on 16th August 2012 – the largest use of force by the security forces since 1994 – reveals the sharp contradictions of South Africa’s system of accumulation and how many features of the apartheid period are being reproduced. The issues raised by the Marikana massacre, and the strike wave of which it was part, include general and specific features of the political economy of South Africa, of industrial relations, of economic and social reproduction, and of the politics of the triple alliance. This panel will assess how these events critical reflect the political economy of post-apartheid South Africa, not least across the core of the MEC.

Contact and submission to iippe2013@iss.nl and  “Ashman, Samantha” pdf5@uj.ac.za with “abstract submitted iippe2013” in the subject line.

Panel 5: Policy Alternatives

It is generally accepted by 1994, despite the RDP, that post-apartheid economic policy had already taken a neo-liberal turn, not least with the rejection of the 1993 MERG Report, commissioned by the ANC but rejected as soon as it appeared, and now available at http://www.sds.ukzn.ac.za/files/Making%20Democracy%20Work_MERG_Book.pdf or http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/14614/1/MERG.pdf. Currently, funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and supported by NUMSA, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, a new set of progressive economic policies are being proposed for South African, under the moniker of PERSA (Political Economy of Restructuring of South Africa). This panel will allow for presentation of these policies, the analytical and strategic framework that underpins them, and for constructive critical commentary not least in assessing the past and continuing trajectory of the South African economy and the policies that have accompanied it.

Contact and submission to iippe2013@iss.nl and bf@soas.ac.uk with “abstract submitted iippe2013” in the subject line.

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