Workshop on: “Marxist theory of Value and Profit, Financialization and Crisis” by Prof. Simon Mohun (Emeritus Professor of Political Economy, Queen Mary University of London) 9-11 December 2014 National Kapodistrian University of Athens Three lectures and discussion on: Value and…
Frederic Sterling Lee passed away on October 23, 2014, having been diagnosed with stage 4- lung-cancer earlier this year. The heterodox community has lost a prominent economist and scholar as well as a supportive colleague and mentor for younger generations of heterodox economists. In “How I became a Heterodox economist” (http://heterodoxnews.com/leefs/cv/predestine/), Fred Lee explains how he was predestined to become a dissenting economist. The family backgrounds of both his parents together with his father’s interests in pressing economic and social issues as well as contact with Marxist and Institutionalist writings culminated in an environment where politics, civil and workers’ rights were frequently discussed. Having majored in History, and attending graduate classes in philosophy and philosophy of science, Fred Lee reaslised early on that economists posed very interesting social questions. Under the mentorship of Alfred S. Eichner he undertook doctoral studies in Columbia. Although Fred’s initial ambition was to create a coherent Post-Keynesian theoretical framework, this evolved into bigger concerns over the foundations of heterodox economics.
The recent financial crisis has re-opened discussions among economists regarding the epistemology and validity of orthodox economic theories being taught in universities. Consequently, some economics departments, after many decades of focusing on mathematical drilling, started to reintroduce pluralistic economic theories – largely in the form of courses on economic history and thought. However, the same intellectual inquiries have not occurred in specialized undergraduate finance programmes. As someone who teaches undergraduate insurance finance, I have been especially concerned about the long-held assumption about specialized finance programmes, by educators and students alike, that such programmes are only responsible for cultivating financial “technicians”, who do not need to concern themselves with broader social issues.
A huge demonstration took place in Athens on the 1stPasted_Image_16_11_2014_11_05Pasted_Image_16_11_2014_11_06 of November. Given that demonstrations are not uncommon in Greece (20,120 recorded demonstrations between May 2010 and March 2014), one might question the significance of this one. I would like to argue that this demonstration was special. To begin with, it is an initiative of PAME (All Workers Militant Front) that is supported by hundreds of unions (over 1000 unions signed the call to demonstrate and declared participation). PAME (http://pamehellas.gr/index.php/en/) is a trade union front established in April 1999 following an initiative of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). Despite its origins, the majority of signatories to this demonstration are not communists.
Over the period of neoliberalism, the motivation underpinning IMF policy advice has gone through three phases. The first, lasting from the early 1990s, was to promote global capital in general as much as possible with global finance in particular to the fore and never mind the negative and dysfunctional consequences of the spin-offs in terms of fiscal austerity, high interest rates, free capital movements, economic and social wage repression, rising unemployment, inequality and poverty, privatisation, and so on. The second phase was to seek, unsuccessfully, to prevent economic or social crises from erupting in particular countries or regions whilst keeping as many of the features of the first phase on track as possible. And the third phase that has emerged following the global crisis, implicitly acknowledging the failure of holding to the previous phases, has been to accept that there are going to be country crises but to seek to prevent them from giving rise to “contagion”, not least as the global economy is already heavily diseased. But, whilst the motivation may have changed, and the neoliberal rhetoric became less blunt, the medicine remains much the same in policy terms.
For manPasted_Image_16_11_2014_11_02y years I asked myself, why do so many well-informed people profess ignorance of simple aspects of our economy? It took me decades to realize that the answer to this question lies in great part in the answer to a second, why do students of mainstream economics graduate knowing almost nothing about the real economy, yet consider themselves budding experts in the field?
Ewa Karwowski: You recently joined Kingston University as the Head of the Economics Department. What are your first impressions of the department?
Steve Keen: The Department has a strong heterodox orientation with people like Engelbert Stockhammer, Paul Auerbach and Julian Wells. There already is a range of staff, which is inclined in that direction. It’s a very friendly Department and it also has a Dean who is aware of the philosophical divides in economics, which is an advantage.
The following is an extract from a speech made by Nicholas Kaldor in the House of Lords on 18 March 1981;
“The Economics of the Primitive
The belief that public expenditure must be cut in order to balance the budget, which is clearly held passionately by Mrs Thatcher and her immediate associates, derives from an anthropomorphic conception of economics. Primitive religions are anthropomorphic. They believe in gods which resemble human beings in physical shape and character. Mrs Thatcher’s economics is anthropomorphic, in that she believes in applying to the national economy the same principles and rules of conduct as have been found appropriate to a single individual or family – paying your way, trimming your expenditure to fit your earnings, avoiding living beyond your means and avoiding getting into debt. These are all well-worn principles of prudent conduct for an individual, but when applied as policy prescriptions to national economy they lead to absurdities.
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.
I am a new lecturer, currently in my second year of teaching. I work in an institution that has traditionally created space for the discussion of different approaches to international development, but with standard mainstream economics (micro/macro/econometrics etc) taught in all other modules. Whilst I do not face the institutional challenges that many colleagues do in terms of censorship over the introduction of different economic theories into my teaching, the current design of the curriculum posed some challenges over how exactly to go about doing so.