New Poll Shows a Majority of Young Americans Oppose Capitalism
Robin Scher, AlterNet
The PRC is in a pretty solid position, legality-wise in occupying Scarborough Shoal.
And that means it’s pretty much free to build on it. Even island-build it.
The United States and the Philippines know that.
Losing Scarborough Shoal was the price of the pivot.
It’s just hard to admit it.Just like losing Crimea was the price of the coup in Ukraine.
Last year, I reported about the draft law proposed during the National People’s Congress (NPC), March 2015, to govern the activities of foreign NGOs (FNGOs) in China. Every law proposed in China is published for public comments, from both Chinese citizens and outsiders. This proposed FNGO law created such a hue and cry among Western governments and agencies, bordering on apoplexy, that the NPC tabled it for further review and consultation. China’s law was largely based on Russia’s FNGO law passed previously, and which was also largely adopted by India.
In the interim, China’s NPC passed a comprehensive update to its National Security Law, which has many common features with the FNGO legislation.
A year later, it’s official. On April 28th, China’s new “Management of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations”, was signed into law by the NPC Standing Committee.…Turning up the heat on foreign NGOs operating in the PRC in order to foil attempts at color revolution. Russia and India have taken similar steps.
Lawmakers are investigating whether academic freedom is being threatened at universities building campuses in China and partnering with the Chinese on "Confucius institutes" in the U.S.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of a House subcommittee focusing on human rights, said at a hearing before the panel Thursday that he will seek a Governmental Accountability Office study of agreements between U.S. universities and China that allow China to promote its culture and language here through education programs it supervises and finances.
Smith said Congress could decide to withhold money for the Education Department or for State Department exchange programs if it decides the Chinese-sponsored efforts are compromising academic freedoms in the U.S.
"I think we can all agree that U.S. colleges and universities should not be outsourcing academic control, faculty and student oversight or curriculum to a foreign government — in this case a dictatorship," said Smith, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.USA Today (December 4, 2014)
A fundamental problem faced by the general public and the members of an academic discipline in the information age is how to find the most authoritative, comprehensive, and up-to-date information about an important topic.
That paper is so old that it mentions “CD-ROMs” in the second sentence. But for all the years that have passed, the basic problem remains unsolved.
The three requirements the authors list—”authoritative, comprehensive, and up-to-date”—are to information what the “impossible trinity” is to economics. You can only ever have one or two at once. It is like having your cake, eating it, and then bringing it to another party.
Yet if the goal is to share with people what is true, it is extremely important for a resource to have all of these things. It must be trusted. It must not leave anything out. And it must reflect the latest state of knowledge. Unfortunately, all of the other current ways of designing an encyclopedia very badly fail to meet at least one of these requirements….Quartz
“After the events of 2008, really since then, the central banks either collectively or individually have tried to implement policies which would, in effect, buy time for individual governments to take the actions they should take to put their houses in order,” Thornton says.
The Republican Party that I used to be more sympathetic with — I'm right in the middle now, although as you know I'm for Trump — but what I would say is Congress is in this massive gridlock," he said, explaining that the Republican-controlled body is "obsessed with this deficit to a point that I think it's almost pathological."CNBC
The result of this gridlock and a lack of fiscal stimulus has been that the Federal Reserve has been forced to keep interest rates low, and that has created "tremendous bubbles" and "the wealth gap."
Additionally, worrying about a deficit when there is no significant inflation and the dollar remains the global reserve currency is not a smart way to govern, Icahn said, adding that "a country is not a company."…
"Excellent presentation and so true. Your course is an incredible deal. Wish I hid this to work with back in the day."
US military aircrafts and naval ships carried out these operations against China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Oman, the Philippines and Vietnam, the Pentagon report on Monday said. The purported aim of these assertive US missions are to demonstrate that Washington will not accept the claims of jurisdiction of these countries over disputed areas.…Not just picking on China.
A newly published study from Oxford’s Jon Penney provides empirical evidence for a key argument long made by privacy advocates: that the mere existence of a surveillance state breeds fear and conformity and stifles free expression. Reporting on the study, the Washington Post this morning described this phenomenon: “If we think that authorities are watching our online actions, we might stop visiting certain websites or not say certain things just to avoid seeming suspicious.”…
As the Post explains, several other studies have also demonstrated how mass surveillance crushes free expression and free thought.…
There are also numerous psychological studies demonstrating that people who believe they are being watched engage in behavior far more compliant, conformist and submissive than those who believe they are acting without monitoring.…
There is a reason governments, corporations, and multiple other entities of authority crave surveillance. It’s precisely because the possibility of being monitored radically changes individual and collective behavior. Specifically, that possibility breeds fear and fosters collective conformity. That’s always been intuitively clear. Now, there is mounting empirical evidence proving it.Until recently, this was a major indictment of "totalitarian" states leveled by the liberal West.
We often use big, overarching ideas to help us understand the world and the opportunities contained within. These narratives, which can change over time, are used to create context. They give us a frame of reference for comprehending the news and events that affect our outlook on things.
China’s economic prowess is one of these new paradigms that has emerged, but many people still can’t really wrap their heads around the scale or scope of it.Visual Capitalist
It’s happened suddenly, and the ramifications are extremely relevant to our investments and understanding. Here’s four maps on China’s trade dominance that will help you think differently about the world:
The Russian Central Bank is guided (among other considerations) in its inflation expectations by statistics produced by Rosstat (Russia’s governmental statistics agency) concerning the size of Russia’s imports relative to domestic production. The bank’s inflation expectation in turn is – judging by their policy statements – the decisive factor in its interest rate policy. Unfortunately, it seems that Rosstat has in its published statistics grossly overestimated the share of imports. According to the agency, the share of all imported products of the “consumer basket” would be 38%. Our research shows that the true figure cannot be more than 24%. When approaching the question from different angles we have derived results in the range of 4.9% to 24%.
The biggest problem in Russia’s economy is not its relative dependence on oil and gas revenue, rather it is the punitively high borrowing costs that should occupy the top spot in policy concerns. The Central Bank has been keeping its key steering rate at an inordinately high level of 11% although inflation has long ago fallen well below that. By end of March, the inflation for the past 12 months was down to 7.3% and running forward at a rate of approximately 6%.…
The Russian Central Bank thus proceeds from quite erroneous premises in motivating its cutthroat interest policy by historical inflation records and “inflation risks” based on faulty statistics connected with a distorted view of the share of imports in the national economy. There is yet a third, perhaps more fundamental error, which is the neoliberal belief that inflation is strictly a monetary phenomenon. This when in fact the root cause of Russia’s inflation over the last two decades has been insufficient supply to meet the demand. Therefore, the immediate concern of the Central Bank should be to make affordable lending available for Russian producers. This should be done even at the risk of increasing the inflation in the short-term, because before the supply side is addressed it will not be possible to break the vicious cycle.…
The Schuman Declaration that set the tone of Franco-German reconciliation - and would lead by stages to the European Community - was cooked up by the US Secretary of State Dean Acheson at a meeting in Foggy Bottom. "It all began in Washington," said Robert Schuman's chief of staff.…
For British eurosceptics, Jean Monnet looms large in the federalist pantheon, the emminence grise of supranational villainy. Few are aware that he spent much of his life in America, and served as war-time eyes and ears of Franklin Roosevelt.
General Charles de Gaulle thought him an American agent, as indeed he was in a loose sense. Eric Roussel's biography of Monnet reveals how he worked hand in glove with successive administrations.…
Nor are many aware of declassified documents from the State Department archives showing that US intelligence funded the European movement secretly for decades, and worked aggressively behind the scenes to push Britain into the project.…
The key CIA front was the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), chaired by Donovan. Another document shows that it provided 53.5 per cent of the European movement's funds in 1958. The board included Walter Bedell Smith and Allen Dulles, CIA directors in the Fifties, and a caste of ex-OSS officials who moved in and out of the CIA.…
A memo dated June 11, 1965, instructs the vice-president of the European Community to pursue monetary union by stealth, suppressing debate until the "adoption of such proposals would become virtually inescapable". This was too clever by half, as we can see today from debt-deflation traps and mass unemployment across southern Europe.…Who knew?
This is just a vague stab at a germ of an idea. It’s what I hope to work on in the future by looking at the history and philosophy of political economy. It’s not properly formed at all; I’m just getting the idea out there to be discussed by all the smart people who read my blog and have offered so much helpful advice in the past.
The basic claim I want to make is that the theory of individual preferences that lies at the basis of economic analysis, public choice theory, and other related social sciences, is wrong. Individuals don’t have preferences.…Origin of Specious
The distinction between headline and core inflation is commonly made in market and economic commentary. This primer briefly introduces these concepts, and why they are used.Bond Economics
Financial Times journalist Wolfgang Münchau’s article (April 24, 2016) – The revenge of globalisation’s losers – rehearses a common theme, and one which those on the Left have become intoxicated with (not implicating the journalist among them). The problem is that the basic tenet is incorrect and by failing to separate the process of globalisation (integrated multinational supply chains and global capital flows) from what we might call economic neo-liberalism, the Left leave themselves exposed and too ready to accept notions that the capacity of the state has become compromised and economic policy is constrained by global capital. This is a further part in my current series that will form the thrust of my next book (coming out later this year). I have broken sequence a bit with today’s blog given I have been tracing the lead up to the British decision to call in the IMF in 1976. More instalments in that sequence will come next week as I do some more thinking and research – I am trawling through hundreds of documents at present (which is fun but time consuming). But today picks up on Wolfgang Münchau’s article from the weekend and fits nicely into the overall theme of the series. It also keeps me from talking about deflation in Australia (yes, announced today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics) as the Federal government keeps raving on about cutting its fiscal deficit (statement next Tuesday). I will write about those dreaded topics in due course.…Bill Mitchell – billy blog
Venezuela is literally running out of money. As in, literally running out of bills. @andrewrosati https://t.co/CZSbkStQBS— Katia Porzecanski (@KatiaPorzo) April 27, 2016
The Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Yuri Chaika, stated in his report to be presented to the Federation Council that supporters of Right Sector, a Ukrainian organization banned in the Russian Federation, have attempted to organize mass riots on the territory of Russia.…This is consistent with public pronouncements of the Right Sector. I had written it off as bluster.
The US is intensifying the pressure on Cyprus to accept a secret NATO plan to keep Turkish forces on the island.
Victoria Nuland, the State Department official in charge of regime change in Russia and Ukraine, met for talks last week with the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, and with Turkish Cypriot figures.…
After its attack and military occupation of the north in 1974, Turkey has insisted on keeping its forces on the island as a security “guarantee”, and refuses to comply with United Nations (UN) resolutions ordering their withdrawal.
US military commanders and political leaders have never advocated Turkish withdrawal from the island, or compliance with the UN resolutions. Instead, they have recommended incorporating both parts of Cyprus into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The political and military commands in Ankara have been reluctant to accept a NATO solution for Cyprus because they object to what they regard as “dilution” of their army on the island. The Nuland plan is the latest attempt to give Ankara what it wants, and override Greek Cypriot objections.…
On April 5, just before Nuland’s arrival in Nicosia, senior Russian and Cypriot officials, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov (below, left) and the Permanent Secretary of the Cyprus Foreign Ministry, Alexandros Zenon (right), met in Moscow.
Their communique said that “during an exchange of views on the Cyprus settlement, the Russian side reiterated its commitment to the efforts made in the framework of the continuing intra-Cypriot talks under the UN aegis to promote a fair and lasting solution on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, a solution that would meet the interests of both Cypriot communities and stem from their voluntary consent.”
As for the terms to be agreed, Moscow has added: “We oppose any attempts at imposing on the participants of the intra-Cypriot negotiations any formulas of settlement, artificial negotiating schedules, and arbitration.”…
[Cyprus President] Anastasiades has been forced into publicly defending himself and his associates from widely published, widely believed allegations of corruptly protecting their wealth when, in return for the European Union’s bailout of the Cyprus banks, Anastasiades agreed to the “haircut” – the confiscation of Cypriot depositors’ bank accounts on March 25, 2013. Anastasiades has also been linked to extortion by a former deputy attorney-general now on trial for abuse of power; and to privatization scams.…Keeping up with the intrigue.
Throughout history, most states have functioned as kleptocracies and not as providers of public goods. This column analyses the diffusion of legal institutions that established Europe’s first large-scale experiments in mass public education. These institutions originated in Germany during the Protestant Reformation due to popular political mobilisation, but only in around half of Protestant cities. Cities that formalised these institutions grew faster over the next 200 years, both by attracting and by producing more highly skilled residents.Raising the general level of education raises the level of collective consciousness of a group, reducing insularity and increasing appreciation of universality. Education requires freedom of thought and expression. What is needed now is a new "protestant reformation" in economics to overthrow the "priesthood" and "priestcraft" of the currently dominant ideology that fetishizes "freedom" as independence from governmental intrusion in the economy other than to provide security and enforce law, especially property rights, assuming spontaneous natural order as a secular Deism.
The next trade agenda must also, I’ve argued, pursue a new kind of trade deal, one that elevates a wholly different group of stakeholders than the largely corporate interests who have come to dominate that process.
That agenda must also incorporate an evolving understanding of international macroeconomics, one that incorporates “savings gluts,” wherein large trade surplus countries export savings to and import labor demand from deficit countries, capital flows and their contribution to “secular stagnation,” and the impact of these dynamics on the dollar, interest rates, the Fed’s macro-management, and inflation.
The problem we face, of course, is that it took way too long to get to this discussion. That has allowed protectionists/demagogues to blame immigrants and trade for all that ails us, which leads to the obvious solutions: get rid of the immigrants and build barriers to trade.
But those ideas can’t work in no small part because globalization is…um…a global force with a massive, infrastructure in place and benefits that American consumers will not comfortably sacrifice, nor should we, both for our own well-being and for the ability of emerging economies to lift their living standards through trade with richer countries.On the Economy
Because we ignored the brewing problems with trade for so long, wasting time with fractious arguments over trade deals instead of dealing with the real problems identified by Autor et al and EPI, we’ve not built the policy architecture to deal with the micro and macro issues raised above (sorry, but “wage insurance” doesn’t get it).…
Will the media ever stop the ridiculous charade of pretending that the path of globalization that we are on is somehow and natural and that it is the outcome of a "free" market?The bulk of the post is kind of weak, but the title and above quote get it right.
Human vision relies on what is known as trichromacy, the method which allows the mixing of just three fixed wavelengths of light at certain intensities into the multitudes of shades that color the world we see. This is because the human retina, which transmits visual information to the brain, has only three light-absorbing pigments.
This is one of the primate kingdom’s benefits since most other animal species are hamstrung with dichromacy, which limits their vision to the mix of just two colors.
TPOD | DIVINE COLORS: COLOR PERCEPTION https://t.co/4TdBqB5yso— Thunderbolts Project (@tboltsproject) April 26, 2016
Holman Jenkins, the ultra-conservative Wall Street Journal columnist who specializes in global climate change denial and elite financial fraud denial, has written recently to join Paul Krugman in defending the systemically dangerous banks. Jenkins is a member of the WSJ’s loopy editorial board. Jenkins’ title was “Big Banks Aren’t the Problem.” Jenkins’ thesis raises obvious and vital questions – he ignores each of them because answering them would falsify his thesis.New Economic PerspectivesThe 2008 crisis did not begin in a handful of too-big-to-fail banks, but in incentives cast far and wide among home buyers, mortgage brokers, lenders and others to underwrite tax-advantaged, one-way bets on home prices.I wrote this during Passover, so I followed the tradition of asking four questions.
- When did “the 2008 crisis” “begin?”
- Who created the “incentives?”
- Why did they create the “incentives?”
- Who had “one-way” incentives?
The day after the impeachment vote in the lower house of Brazil’s congress, one of the leaders of the effort, Senator Aloysio Nunes, traveled to Washington, D.C. He had scheduled meetings with a number of U.S. officials, including Thomas Shannon at the State Department.
Shannon has a relatively low profile in the media, but he is the number three official in the U.S. State Department. Even more significantly in this case, he is the most influential person in the State Department on U.S. policy in Latin America. He will be the one recommending to Secretary of State John Kerry what the U.S. should do as the ongoing efforts to remove President Dilma Rousseff proceed.
Shannon’s willingness to meet with Nunes just days after the impeachment vote sends a powerful signal that Washington is on board with the opposition in this venture. How do we know this? Very simply, Shannon did not have to have this meeting. If he wanted to show that Washington was neutral in this fierce and deeply polarizing political conflict, he would not have a meeting with high-profile protagonists on either side, especially at this particular moment.
Shannon’s meeting with Nunes is an example of what could be called “dog-whistle diplomacy.” It barely shows up on the radar of the media reporting on the conflict, and therefore is unlikely to generate backlash. But all the major actors know exactly what it means. That is why Nunes’ party, the Social Democracy Party (PSDB), publicized the meeting.Weisbrot explains political signaling with several examples.
From the supporters of Donald Trump to the street protesters of southern Europe, voters around the world are mad as hell. Inequality, immigration, and the establishment's perceived indifference are firing up electorates in a way that's rarely been seen before. As the following charts from Bloomberg show, the forces shaping the disruption of global politics have been building for years and aren't about to diminish...Zero Hedge
The obvious response to an excess of savings over investment is to run a corresponding budget deficit which enables the savings to be realised and supports aggregate demand. Some, such as Germany and the Netherlands are able to combine high savings with low investment through a current account surplus, but others need a budget deficit.…Triple Crisis
Philip Arestis is Honorary Senior Departmental Fellow, and Director of Research at the Centre for Economics & Public Policy, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge; Professor of Economics at the Department of Applied Economics V, Universidad del País Vasco, Spain; Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics, University of Utah; Senior Scholar, Levy Economics Institute, New York; Visiting Professor, Leeds Business School, University of Leeds; and Professorial Research Associate, Department of Finance & Management Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.
Malcolm Sawyer is professor of economics at the university of Leeds, and a research scholar at the Levy Institute.
Even if TTIP goes ahead, ISDS needs serious rethinking. It will be interesting to see if the democratically elected Governments have the power or willingness to adhere to the will of the people who elected them, rather than the corporations that fund them.The London Economic
When Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign a year ago with a brazen call for American revolution in politics, economics and social justice, no-one—not even the candidate himself—could have imagined what the still-fighting campaign would bring.
“The media likes to portray this as a fair fight on even footing,” campaign manager Jeff Weaver said last week. “They seem to forget that when we started our campaign on April 30, we barely registered in the polls. We didn’t have a political organization. We didn’t have millionaires waiting in the wings. Quite frankly, we didn’t have a whole lot. And then millions of people came together in a political revolution.”…AlterNet
JAY: So a direct federally-funded jobs program is on the table with you.
SANDERS: Absolutely.The Real News Network
As I noted in my discussion of Anwar Shaikh's new book Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises, one of the most interesting parts of the work was his discussion of how microeconomic behaviour is reflected in aggregate performance. There are fundamental constraints upon individual behaviour that result in the same aggregate patterns at the macro level. Using the currently popular buzzword, macro behaviour is emergent, and cannot be predicted from individual behaviour with reference to the aggregate system. In my view, this is useful for macro analysts, as it means we do not waste our time obsessing about the lessons of microeconomics. For mainstream ("neoclassical") economics, this line of thinking is disastrous, as it means that entire "microfoundations project" has all the usefulness of a foundation made of sand.…Bond Economics
The general conclusion at which I arrived and which, once reached, became the guiding principle of my studies can be summarised as follows.
In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.
In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.
Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, [A] feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production – antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that emanates from the individuals' social conditions of existence – but the productive forces developing within bourgeois society create also the material conditions for a solution of this antagonism. The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this social formation. — Emphasis added.
From these things therefore it is clear that the city-state is a natural growth, and that man is by nature a political animal [ho anthropos physei politikon zoon], and a man that is by nature and not merely by fortune citiless is either low in the scale of humanity or above it (like the “ clanless, lawless, heartless ” man reviled by Homer,1 for one by nature unsocial is also ‘a lover of war’）inasmuch as he is solitary, like an isolated piece at draughts. — Politics, Book I, 1253aHowever, Marx also implicitly rejects Aristotle's political institutionalism based on civil law as basic in favor of a socio-economic mode of production as foundational. For Marx, social and political superstructure is based on economic infrastructure.
The European Union on the verge.Wolf Street
If President Dilma Rousseff is successfully impeached it will shake confidence in the entire Brazilian democratic system, says Maria Mendonca of the University of Rio de Janeiro.This is the real issue. Sounds banana republic but the GOP did essentially the same thing in the case of Bill Clinton who was impeached but not removed and Barack Obama, who the GOP leadership declared they intended "break."
Vice President Michel Temer, who would take over if Rousseff is impeached, met with close advisors in Sao Paulo to study plans for a new government that, aides said, would move quickly to restore economic confidence and growth.…
Murilo Portugal, the head of Brazil's most powerful banking industry lobby, has emerged as a strong candidate to become finance minister if Temer takes power, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.Capitalism is antithetical to democracy.
A new report from analysts with industry research group, Sandler Research, forecasts the Global Riot Control System Market for the next four years — but beyond a burgeoning market to parallel the expanding global police state, it appears world governments are also keenly aware of civilian discontent.…
As the Democratic Party grimly marches toward Hillary Clinton’s nomination, little thought has been given to her extraordinary record as a war hawk and what that could mean to the world, observes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.Consortium News
The relationship between feudalism and the origins of capitalism was of great interest to Marx.…
The question of the transition from feudalism to capitalism remained central for subsequent Marxist thinkers.….
More recent views of the origins of capitalism have merged Marxism and some of the key ideas of post-colonialism. An interesting current example is Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nişancıoğlu's How the West Came to Rule: The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism, a 2015 book from Pluto Press.
Anievas and Nişancıoğlu offer an account of the transition to capitalism that emphasizes the international character of the transition from the start. Their story differs in some important ways from the classic Marxian account, according to which European feudalism possessed its own dynamic of conflict between forces and relations of production, eventuating in the emergence of a new social order, capitalism. Anievas and Nişancıoğlu reject a "Eurocentric" approach to the emergence of capitalism and industrial revolution; rather, international trade, war, and colonialism were essential components of the emergence of the capitalist mode of production.…
There is an important historiographical issue here that is illustrated in these works by Dobb, Anievas and Nişancıoğlu, and Brenner: to what extent is it feasible to look for large macro-processes and transitions in history? Should we expect large social and economic factors writing out social change? Or is history more contingent and more multi-pathed than that? My own view is that the latter approach is correct (link). Neither technology (link) nor population (link) nor class conflict (link) suffices to explain large historical change. Rather, large structures and small innovations add up to contingent and variable pathways of historical development. We've gotten past the "agent-structure" debate; but perhaps we still have the "large factor, small factor" debate standing in front of us (link). And the solution may be the same: both large structures and contingent local arrangements are involved in the development of new social systems.My view is that different accounts are useful. The simplest accounts are generally highly abstract and therefore only approximate, but they capture key features. However, they also stand in need of articulation in terms of nuance. Consequently, there might be many levels of account with different degrees of generality and nuance, or different methods of approach appropriate for the same issue.
My esteemed colleague Adam Ozanne has written a very interesting, short book on the strange absence of the concept of power from mainstream modern economics. The book, Power and Neoclassical Economics, argues that the fact that economics ignores power in social relations has also affected other social sciences, especially political science, as they have adopted techniques and approaches used in economics.
What explains the lacuna? Adam dates it to, first, the marginalist turn in economics in the 1870s, which started the process of abstracting from the particulars of reality into formalism; and then to the ordinalism of the 1930s and Lionel Robbins’ insistence that ‘positive’ and ‘normative’ economics could be separated. The new welfare economics of the 1950s finished the job. Indeed, Arrow’s famous impossibility theorem seemed to conclude that we can’t say anything practical about social choice. As the book puts it: “It must seem strange to non-economists that economic and social choice theorists have dug themselves into such a deep hole (though a very tidy, immaculately constructed hole) that they cannot even distinguish between rich and poor, but that appears to be the case.”….From class structure flows power, from power flows economic, and from economic rent flows concentrated incomes and wealth. Ignoring power is to ignore economics as a social science and get lost in empty formalism. Worse, politic economy without considering power is ideology that establishes privilege.
Mainstream economics almost completely ignores the role power plays in determining economic outcomes, which means it can only provide partial explanations of the distribution of wealth and income, and of the problems associated with inequality and poverty. For many, this is a fundamental failing that severely limits its relevance to the real world and is the source of much dissatisfaction with, and cynicism about, economics and economists. Ozanne explains how this neglect of power has come about over the past 150 years and why it is important. He reviews various definitions and theories of power from across the social sciences and proposes a new approach that could bring considerations of power back into standard economic theory and economics teaching. The approach is simple and intuitive, involving little more than re-envisioning the social welfare function as a 'political economy function'. However, if adopted in economics teaching, it could radically change the way young economists are taught to think about economic problems and lead to a 'return to political economy'.
Adam Ozanne has degrees in physics and astronomy, rural development, and agricultural economics. He also began a DPhil in nuclear astrophysics but abandoned it and went instead to teach maths and physics in Pakistan and work for a Third World development agency. He is now a Senior Lecturer teaching economics at the University of Manchester, UK.