IIPPE Training Workshops

IIPPE in Brief Issue No. 12

by Simon Mohun, Serap Saritas and Elisa van Waeyenberge

IIPPE began running Training Workshops in June 2012 (60 registrations) and has (by October 2014) run seven others. The first three – in June 2012 and March 2013, both in London running over two days, and a one day event in July 2013 in The Hague the day before the IIPPE annual conference – have been described in previous newsletters. This report covers the Workshops in November 2013, March 2014, June 2014 and September 2014.

Our fourth Training Workshop was a one-day event on basic political economy (led by Simon Mohun and Alfredo Saad-Filho) on the day before the Historical Materialism Conference in London in November 2013. The Workshop attracted some 65 participants for what was intended as a basic introduction to Marxian political economy. Alfredo began the morning session with an outline of the basics of the labour theory of value, and Simon continued the morning session with considerations of value and price. Alfredo then began the afternoon with a discussion of value and accumulation, and Simon concluded the afternoon session with a discussion of value and profit.

Our fifth Training Workshop was a two-day event in March 2014 in London on class and class structure, attracting around 60 participants. Henry Bernstein began with a discussion of agrarian class formation and agrarian transition. After outlining ‘classic’ debates and historical experience on periodising transition(s), he considered what ‘globalisation’ has changed, whether there is a ‘world food system’ and concluded with a discussion of materialism versus agrarian populism. After lunch, Ben Selwyn situated class analysis in Development Studies, looking at conceptual issues in global commodity chains, class relations and development, and concluded with an examination of a case study of the labour process and workers’ bargaining power in northeast Brazilian export agriculture. The following day opened with Adam Hanieh’s session on class and uprisings in the Middle East. He began by situating the Middle East in a global context, looking at methodological and theoretical issues, imperialism, class, state and neoliberal transformation, and the global economic crisis and the Middle East. He then considered how class formation in the Gulf and North Africa could be rethought after the 2011 revolts. The final afternoon session was led by Alfredo Saad-Filho, with a survey of class and mode of production (slave, Asiatic, feudal and capitalist), forms of capitalism and classes in capitalism, before concluding with a survey of class, economic policy and social movements in Brazil during the neoliberal era.

The sixth Workshop at the end of March 2014 was a new venture (in Leeds, our first Workshop outside London in the UK), being jointly sponsored by IIPPE and Leeds Business School on “Marx, Keynes and Economic Crises in the 20th and 21st Centuries”. Assuming no prior knowledge, Malcolm Sawyer began with an introduction to heterodox macroeconomic analysis and policy, and was followed by David Spencer who proposed the case for less working time. In the afternoon, Annina Kaltenbrunner outlined a Minskyan account of developing countries in the global financial crisis, and Gary Dymski surveyed the subprime meltdown, the Eurozone crisis, shadow banking and quantitative easing in order to consider the question of whether these developments marked the failure of the era of empowered financial capital, or its triumph. The day then concluded with a roundtable discussion. Attracting some 50 participants, the joint venture was a great success.

The seventh Workshop was a one-day event in London in June 2014 on Marxist approaches to finance, and was designed for people who had some prior knowledge. Simon Mohun set the scene in the morning: beginning with the labour theory of value, equal and unequal exchange, and prices; he then gave an account of productive and unproductive labour; and concluded with Marx’s account of interest and the rate of interest, and fictitious capital. In the afternoon, Tony Norfield built on these foundations, surveying briefly the empirical importance of finance before elaborating how value theory could approach finance, the notion of fictitious capital, and the importance and limitations of Hilferding’s approach. He then considered in more detail financial profit, banks and money markets, and the rate of profit, and concluded with some suggestions of how parasitism and imperialism could be understood today in a financial context. There were around 45 participants, and from the evidence of the discussion and subsequent feedback they found the day most worthwhile.

Our eighth workshop, with an attendance of around 40 people, was a one-day event in Naples, the day before the IIPPE annual conference in September 2014, on value and price. In the morning session, Marco Veronese Passarella put the labour theory of value in historical context, looking at the difficulties that Smith and Ricardo had confronted in using the theory as an account of price, and how Marx situated his own analysis with respect to his predecessors in political economy. In the afternoon session, Simon Mohun continued the theme, outlining the ‘transformation problem’ and some more recent approaches to price determination in this context. This workshop worked well, and we will repeat it in the same format on 5 November in London, the day before the Historical Materialism Conference.

We hope in the future to expand our programme outside London (while continuing in London), to liaise more closely with Working Groups, integrating them into occasional more applied workshops (such as, for example, on privatisation), as well as continuing the theoretical emphases that we have pursued so far. As ever, we welcome feedback on how to make the programme more effective, and we especially welcome suggestions and speakers for future sessions.

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