The political economy of Covid-19

Governments around the world are attempting to prop up a failing capitalist system by — surprise! — throwing money at wealthy individuals and corporations, especially in the financial industry. In other words, in this time of unprecedented crisis and economic difficulty, it’s business as usual.

Although more direct aid for working people is being included this time around — given the crisis of neoliberalism and that the massive subsidies to the same financiers responsible for the crash of the economy in 2008 haven’t been forgotten, political leaders had no choice but to sweeten the pot a little — the overwhelming majority of the money dispensed is going to the financial industry and to large corporations. Again it must be asked: How much more useful would it have been to use this money for practical needs and direct payments to people instead of propping up a bloated and wasteful financial system? More directly, how long can the peoples of the world continue to believe that a system in crisis so frequently and requires such massive bailouts works?

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Posted in Coronavirus, Political economy | Tagged ,

Democracy and the Politics of Coronavirus: Trust, Blame and Understanding

This article explores the relationship between crises and democracy through a focus on the unfolding coronavirus pandemic. Its central argument is that to interpret the current pandemic purely in terms of its epidemiology and public health implications risks overlooking its potentially more significant socio-political consequences. This is because the challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis have themselves become overlaid or layered-upon a pre-existing set of concerns regarding the performance, efficiency and capacity of democratic political structures. The aim of this article is to try and understand and warn against what might be termed a rather odd form of cross-contamination whereby the cynicism, negativity and frustration concerning politicians, political processes and political institutions that existed before the coronavirus outbreak is allowed to direct, define and automatically devalue how democratic structures are subsequently judged in terms of how they responded to the challenge. As such, this article focuses on the link between the Coronavirus crisis and the democratic crisis; or, more precisely, the risk that the Coronavirus crisis may mutate into and fuel a broader crisis of democracy.

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Posted in Coronavirus, Democracy, Politics | Tagged , ,

How working from home is changing our economy forever

The virus lurks on car door handles, on doorknobs and the floor, on the breath of others or in a friend’s hug, on onions in the supermarket, and on the hands of the valet who parks your car. If you venture outside, everything and everyone is a threat. So, it is better to stay home, safely locked away with your previously disinfected computer which connects you to a world that is innocuous because it’s virtual and therefore harmless. What makes you sick lurks outside your door. The fear of what we know to be real, but which only materializes in suspicion, is enough to keep us locked away. This individual sensation of anguish in the face of a threat leads to voluntary confinement and that is the success of social control. Fear is used as a disciplinary device.

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Posted in Coronavirus, Work | Tagged ,

The Race Between Economics and COVID-19

For years, the economics profession has suffered from a stubborn reluctance to adopt a more multidisciplinary approach. But now that the COVID-19 pandemic is transforming economic life the world over, the profession has no choice but to leave its comfort zone.

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Posted in Coronavirus | Tagged

Factors that will determine the economic impact of coronavirus

The worst economic effects will be caused by containment measures in directly affected countries. Economic outlooks are being slashed. Gauging the economic destruction is challenging given the highly uncertain and dynamic nature of this public health crisis. How bad the economic damage will rest on the extent of the global spread and duration of the disruption.

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Read also: Coronavirus pushes oil towards the abyss

Posted in Coronavirus | Tagged

The devastating economic impact of the great lockdown

Demand for energy is plunging in the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, and governments have only a limited ability to cushion the blow

The IMF this week gave a stark depiction of the devastating impact of what it is calling “the Great Lockdown”, in its latest World Economic Outlook. The world is heading into a much worse decline than in the financial crisis of 2008-09, with global GDP shrinking by 3% this year, the IMF believes.

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The politics of Nation Branding: Collective identity and public sphere in the neoliberal state

Nation Branding is broadly conceived of as an apolitical marketing strategy that targets external markets to establish and communicate a specific image of national identity. However, in this article, it is argued that Nation Branding displays characteristics that make it constructive to analyze in terms of an implicit cultural policy. The main point is that Nation Branding is essentially an inner-oriented, cultural-political measure that targets the citizens of the national state, characterized by conservative, transformative and transferring political agendas. On the background of an analysis of these characteristics, it will be argued that Nation Branding may work in a self-defeating manner and endanger democratic processes.

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Posted in Nations, Neoliberalism | Tagged ,

Machiavelli’s republican political theory

The author argues that the interpretation of Machiavelli’s political theory is to be prominently a republican one, escaping its commonly simplified and stereotypical interpretations, which reduce his theoretical legacy to so-called ‘Machiavellianism’. The article claims that while elements of ‘Machiavellianism’ do exist in all of his books (especially in The Prince), they do not define the core line and purpose of Machiavelli’s political theory. This article presents how Machiavelli followed the legacy of republican Rome and of the medieval and Renaissance city-republics of Italy (including Florence) in developing his republican conception. Furthermore, it is argued that the theory of the humours – used as a basis of his interpretation of republican tradition – resulted in the anticipation of modern liberal republicanism in Machiavelli’s legacy. His statements that conflicts of interests among different humours/classes/estates were not only unavoidable but were also useful in enacting good laws, did anticipate modern pluralism. The author argues that the theory of the humours served Machiavelli as the core background he used in differentiating the main forms of political orders: monarchy/principality, republic, and lizenzia (institutionally, a republic, but effectively, an imbalanced quasi-aristocratic rule). The criterion Machiavelli used was the quality of relations existent among those humours, in the sense that only the republic secured the satisfaction of the needs and interests of all humours, and insofar represented a well-balanced, healthy body politic. Machiavelli’s intention was to offer ‘practical lessons from the study of history’ through comparison of the ‘ancient events’ of the Roman republic with the ‘modern events’ of the existing lizenzia in Florence, so that a real republican order be (re)established in the Florence of his days.

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Posted in Politics | Tagged

Immanuel Wallerstein and World-systems theory

A towering intellectual, pathbreaking and inspiring thinker, and preeminent sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein passed away.

Wallerstein lived a deep commitment to justice, scholarship and change. He has written dozens of remarkable and award-winning books, and hundreds of influential papers and shrewd commentaries. His superb, eye-opening and powerful World‑Systems Analysis has transformed the way we understand history, capitalism, colonialism, liberalism, social sciences, and the present turbulent times.

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Read also: World-systems analysis: an introduction

Posted in Wallerstein, World economy | Tagged ,

Elements of a political economy of the postgrowth era

Planetary boundaries are either being approached or already crossed, and there is no evidence for an absolute decoupling of GDP growth, resource use and greenhouse gas emissions. How economic and social systems may be reembedded into environmental limits in the absence of growth is a crucial issue within and beyond economics. This paper outlines some of the elements and analytical steps that may turn out useful for formulating a political economy of the post-growth era. The point of departure of the paper is the ecological critique of neoclassic economics. Subsequently, it revisits Marx’s Critique of Political Economy and its potential capability of unifying the monetary (or exchange value) with the matter and energy (or use value) aspects of production and consumption patterns. The following section considers the regulation approach that was originally tabled for the institutional analysis of different growth strategies within the historical development of capitalism. However, the notion of “institutional forms”, in particular, may also give hints of how the social structures of an economy without growth may be understood. Using the analytical toolbox developed in the previous sections, the last section outlines some of the general features of a “global steady-state” economy highlighting the centrality of the provision of sustainable needs satisfiers and the role of one particular institutional form in the transition from a growth to a post-growth economy: that of the state.

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Posted in Political economy, postgrowth | Tagged ,