This blog is a venue for thought about political economy in and beyond the academy. It is linked to faculty members, students, alumni, journalists, and others associated with the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. At Sydney, ‘political economy’ means studying the economic within its social and political context, and therefore treating economics as a social science. ‘Political economy’ is a term with some pedigree, shared by Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx and Max Weber, before the fragmentation of the social sciences into economics, sociology and politics.
At Sydney, the Department of Political Economy developed out of Economics, as documented in the book Political Economy Now!, which traces the struggle for alternative economics at the University since the introduction of new courses in political economy in 1974, including the history of economic thought and the political economy of development and underdevelopment.
Much has changed since then but much has remained the same. Political Economy is a home for many kinds of economic thinking that no longer fit easily in economics departments, including Marxian, post-Keynesian, Polanyian, institutionalist approaches, feminist and postcolonial perspectives, development studies, economic history and sociology, and the history of economic thought. In general we are critical of the neoclassical core that remains the dominant paradigm within economics: the primacy of the individual as the basic unit of analysis, the view of the individual as a rational calculating machine in pursuit of maximum material gain, and an assumed decision-making environment that comprises an economic sphere separate from a political sphere.
Recently, the 2007-8 Global Financial Crisis has triggered a widespread reaction, with many people asking who benefits from the reproduction of economic orthodoxy and looking for alternatives, as shown in developments such as the Post-Crash Economics Society, the phenomenon of best-selling books such as David Harvey’s various contributions ever since The Limits to Capital or Thomas Piketty’s voguish success with Capital in the 21st Century. Attempts to rebuild political economy are evident around the world, such as the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, the International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy (IIPPE), the Society of Heterodox Economists (SHE), the Rethinking Marxism tradition linked to the Association for Economic and Social Analysis (AESA), and initiatives linked to the journal and annual conferences of Historical Materialism, the magazine Jacobin, and the long heritage of New Left Review and Verso Books.
There is clearly now a wide audience for work in the Political Economy tradition. This blog is intended to connect with this audience and engage in the vibrant discussions taking off everywhere.
Contributions to the blog will be made by colleagues linked to the Department of Political Economy whether that be faculty members, undergraduate and postgraduate students, visiting research fellows, or alumni. Guest contributions will also be made by figures linked throughout the wider institution of the University of Sydney in cognate departments, as part of our multidisciplinary appeal. Similarly, involvement is sought from anybody wanting to suggest features and blog posts to enhance the collective focus on, and struggle for, progress in political economy.