D-Econ was present at the Annual American Social Science Association (ASSA) Meetings and International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE) Conference 2020 from Jan 3 to Jan 6 2020 in San Deigo, USA. The conferences were attended by several senior and junior scholars in Economics from across the world, particularly by those based in the USA.
D-Econ organised a round table discussion on “Diversity in Heterodox Economics: Radical Solution for an old Problem” at ICAPE 2020. The panelists for the round-table were Hanna Szymborska (Birmingham City University) [Chair], Devika Dutt (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), and Surbhi Kesar (Azim Premji University and South Asian University). It was an interactive round table, where several issues relating to the colonized nature of the discipline, and how lack of diversity is intimately related to this colonized nature, were discussed. Devika and Hanna talked about how these biases are perpetuated in the discipline and how D-Econ aims to be a movement to counter such biases. Surbhi briefly talked about how the process of knowledge creation is a political process and, as a part of that process, how Development Economics came to be a colonized discipline. The session was attended by several scholars, who shared their own experiences and insights on these issues. We collectively discussed how to challenge the prevalent sexism and racism in our profession and the colonial underpinnings of our discipline. We are grateful to the participants who encouraged our initiative and expressed a great deal of interest in being involved with D-Econ!
D-Econ was also invited to be a part of the panel on Pluralism in Economics, organised by the Young Scholars Initiative (YSI) of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). As a part of the panel, Devika Dutt from D-Econ discussed how even pluralists and heterodox economists, while fighting the biases in Economics, often fall short of recognizing the works of women, scholars from/based in Global South. She stressed that a truly pluralist understanding of Economics necessitates the inclusion of these works and insights.
We sincerely thank the engaging audience at these sessions, whose interesting questions and comments have enriched our own understanding on these issues. At D-Econ, we ensure that we reflect on such insights in order to continue reinvigorating our mission!
This article originally appeared on openDemocracy, as a part of their ‘Decolonising the Economy’ series.
Get a head start on your New Year’s Resolution to read more, by reading some or all of our recommended reads from our Winter 2019 Reading List! As the previous year drew to a close, we took stock of best books published last year. While mainstream economics publications (e.g. see the FT list or The Economist’s list) have been celebrating a very narrow range of authors and subjects (mostly white men based in the US and the UK, writing within mainstream economics), we have put together a more diverse list in terms of background, training, and perspective.
This Alternative Economics list includes authors from across the world, with more varied backgrounds – and writing about more wide-ranging topics from a broader variety of perspectives. Our alternative list also reflects our belief that issues such as structural sexism, imperialism, and the politics of knowledge production are central to understanding economics.
Due to institutional and language barriers we were unable to include as many scholars from the Global South as we would have liked. For example, we would love to read the new book L’Arme Invisible de la Françafrique by Fanny Pigeaud and Ndongo Samba Sylla on the how the CFA Franc continues to constrain the social, political and economic prospects of its member states, but we are still waiting for the English translation.
Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent
Priyamvada Gopal | 2019, Verso
The apologists of empire, akin to the now infamous article in Third World Quarterly making the case for colonialism, still uphold the benefits of imperialism in bringing ideas of modernity and enlightenment to their colonies. However, in this important new book, Priyamvada Gopal presents accounts of rebellions against the British imperialism over a century and shows how the legacy of this dissent shaped the ideas that formed the resistance to empire in Britain. In general, this account allows us to rethink how we study contemporary processes of development, and how they are shaped by the legal origin of its institutions and the type of colonialism it was subject to. By contrast, institutions in former colonies may be shaped a lot more by ideas of freedom and self-sufficiency that developed as a resistance to empire. This is not the focus of the book, but an important connection that perhaps readers should make. Read more.
Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of Music
Gerald Horne | 2019, NYU Press
This book brings political economy and studies of racism and music together in a refreshing and insightful way. Through examining archives, oral history interviews, and secondary literature, Gerald Horne demonstrates how jazz flourished historically, despite rampant cultural exploitation. Horne also reconstructs the resistance of Black musicians to structural racism as it manifested itself in the entertainment industry. Particular attention is played to women artists such as Mary Lou Williams and Melba Liston, including how they dealt with the challenges of racism, sexism, and class exploitation. This book is an important contribution to our understanding of how racial capitalism shaped American music, and demonstrates how economics as a discipline can engage with the intersection of political economy, structural discrimination, and culture. Read more.
The Knowledge Economy
Roberto Mangabeira Unger | 2019, Verso
This book is an important and much-needed account of the historical, political and economic foundations of what has come to be known as the “knowledge economy”. Roberto Mangabeira Unger, who’s a Brazilian philosopher and law Professor, provides an interdisciplinary account of the shifts in economic structure since the industrial revolution, drawing on Adam Smith and Karl Marx’s understanding that the best way to make sense of an economy is to study the most advanced practices of production in that economy. Unger argues that the confinement of the knowledge economy to insular vanguards has become a driver of economic stagnation and inequality throughout the world, and that the shape of contemporary politics on both the left and the right reflects a failure to come to terms with this dilemma. Finally, Unger proposes the way to a knowledge economy for the many, which involves changes not just in economic institutions but also in education, culture, and politics. Read more.
The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery: Biocapitalism and Black Feminism’s Philosophy of History
Alys Eve Weinbaum | 2019, Duke University Press
This book investigates the continuing resonances of Atlantic slavery in the cultures and politics of human reproduction that characterize contemporary biocapitalism. Alys Eve Weinbaum outlines biocapitalism as a form of racial capitalism that relies on the commodification of the human reproductive body, which is dependent upon what Weinbaum calls the slave episteme. In addition to laying out how to conceptually think of this system, Weinbaum also demonstrates how slave epistemes shape the practice of reproduction today, for example through the use of biotechnology and surrogacy. Interestingly, Weinbaum also links her analysis to black feminist contributions from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, which she arge provide the means through which to understand how reproductive slavery haunts the present. Read more.
Decolonisation in Universities – The Politics of Knowledge
Jonathan D. Jansen (editor) | 2019, Wits University Press
This is a very timely and interesting edited volume that brings together some of the most innovative thinking on decolonization of the curriculum and the university, with a focus on the African context, and South Africa in particular. Among the questions that are tackled in this volume are: Is decolonisation simply a slogan for addressing other pressing concerns on campuses and in society? What is the colonial legacy with respect to curricula and can it be undone? How is the project of curricula decolonisation similar to or different from the quest for post-colonial knowledge, indigenous knowledge or a critical theory of knowledge? What does decolonisation mean in a digital age where relationships between knowledge and power are shifting? The editor of the book, Johnathan D. Jansen has brought together conceptual analyses with case studies from South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mauritius. Read more.
In this book, the authors, Cinzia Aruzza, Tithi Bhattcahrya, and Nancy Frazer, move away from the myopic view of feminism for a select few to focus on a universal idea of feminism. In their argument, the authors reposition capitalism as a central aspect for gender oppression, and argue that a global feminist movement needs to extend to an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, eco-socialist struggle. The book focuses on the revolutionary potential of feminist movements across the world and the challenge it poses to capitalism as a system. The focus of this ‘manifesto’ on ‘praxis’ makes it a much-needed and timely piece. Read more.
Value Chains: The New economic Imperialism
by Intan Suwandi | 2019, Verso Books
In this book, the author, Intan Suwandi, engages with the question of imperialism through the specific channel of the Global Value Chains. Using a detailed empirical analysis and a set of case studies, the author explores the issue of unequal exchange between Global South and Global North and how value is transferred from the labour of the South to the capitalists of the North as well as to those in the South. Through this analysis, the book explores a new form of imperialism that manifests itself specifically through a transfer of value via the Global Value Chains. Read more.
‘Capital in the East’: Reflections on Marx
Edited by Achin Chakraborty, Anjan chakrabarti, Byasdeb Dasgupta, Samita Sen | 2019, Springer
This edited volume presents a collection of articles that engage with various concepts from Marx’s Capital and the Marxian theory, in general, from a ‘Southern’ perspective. The book engages with four specific themes: “Reception of Capital in the East; Value, Commodity, Surplus Value and Capitalism; Population and Rent in Capital; and Issues Beyond Capital”. By analysing these concepts from the lens of the developing world in the current context, the collection attempts to present a non-Western / decolonised understanding of various ideas in Marxian theory, thereby making it more relevant for understanding contemporary processes in the developing economies. Read more.
Stolen: How to Save the World From Financialisation
Grace Blakely| 2019, Penguin-Random House
In this book, Blakely tells us a story of the class nature of capitalism, in which she centers the role of the financial sector and its rapid growth. She argues that the financial sector has played a role that stabilized neoliberal capitalism, and then destabilized it in 2008, in ways that are easily accessible to the readers. This financial capitalism and the structures that allow it to thrive ensured that the recovery from the 2007-08 financial crisis only benefited the top 1%, with stagnating wages and productivity in all other sectors languishing. At the same time, she argues, that financial capitalism has exacerbated problems such as climate change, and has not allowed resources being used to address these urgent potentially-catastrophic issues. In this book, Blakely also outlines a positive agenda out of this mess, and issues a call-to-arms to build a new democratic socialism towards this end. Read more.
The Cultural Economy of Land – Rural Bengal, Circa 1860-1940
Suhita Sinha Roy | 2019, Tulika Books
This book provides important insights into agrarian history and the economic and cultural meanings associated with land. Suhita Sinha Roy, who taught at various institutions in India, demonstrates how land acquires various dimensions beyond property, tenure, revenue, and inheritance, if maps are connected with knowledge systems; land productivity with food habits, gender relations, and patterns of migration; landscapes with modes of irrigation and railroad construction; cropping patterns with festivals; village territoriality with social relations of power. By making these connections, Roy brings out a multilayered pattern of rural life-world by, tracing on the one hand, major social and political changes, and, on the other hand, the everyday life of Birbhum district at a specific historical juncture. Read more.
D-Econ will be present at the Asia Convening of the Young Scholar’s Initiative of the Institute for New Economic Thinking from 12 to 15, August 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The convening will be attended by a vibrant community of scholars from around 125 countries (full programme here). D-Econ will be at the convening to engage with the issues of Western-centrism and lack of diversity in Economics as a discipline and to discuss possible actions that we can collectively undertake to deal with these biases. We are organising a round-table on this theme at the convening on August 14, 2019 from 10:30 am to 12:15 pm. The panelists for the round-table are Devika Dutt (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Surbhi Kesar (Azim Premji University and South Asian University), Seung Woo Kim (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies), and Jenny Tue Anh Nguyen (University of Oxford).
Economics as a discipline, while claiming to be the objective social-science, has continued to remain dominated by issues and approaches that are mainly Western-centric and various scholars – and consequently their works – have remained heavily under-represented based on their social identities (gender, race, caste, location – to name a few). In this panel, we particularly engage with these two biases that have been historically produced – and are continuously reproduced – in the discipline. This bias is not limited to the discipline, but is also reflective of the broader society that we live in. In this context, we would specifically engage with four aspects of this issue: (a) What do we mean by the Western-centrism and lack of diversity in the discipline? (b) Why is there a need to engage with these and move beyond it? (c) What does diversification entail? (d) What can we do towards this end?
We invite everyone to join us at the session for an active engagement on these issues. We look forward to an enriching exchange that can collectively take this important initiative forward.
We are also conducting a survey to understand better what conference participants and economists in general think about the state of the profession. You can take the survey here!
Devika Dutt, Surbhi Kesar, Jenny Tue Anh Nguyen, and Richard Itaman from D-Econ will be present at the convening.
When in Lille last month, D-Econ was featured in Open Democracy’s video where they ask the question ‘What’s wrong with our economic theories and how can we fix them?’. Check it out to see what our board members Carolina Alves, Danielle Guizzo and Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven have to say about this challenge.
D-Econ is taking this opportunity to discuss issues of diversity and decolonization within heterodox economics. We have an activist session and a stand at the conference. We will also be conducting a survey to better understand the nature of the challenges faced by the heterodox economics communities. You’ll find the survey at our stand. Continue reading →
This summer, we take stock of the most interesting economics-related books that have been released over the past year. Every year, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times makes a similar list. However, by his own admission, he only reads within the tradition of his own training in mainstream economics. While his 2019 summer list includes several excellent books, such as The Case for People’s Quantitative Easing by Frances Coppola and The Sex Factor by Victoria Bateman, we are still struck by the strong white-male-mainstream-Western bias in Wolf’s list, with the books almost all written by white (20/21) men (18/21) about topics mostly focused on the US and Europe.
To complement Wolf’s list, we have put together an Alternative Economics Summer Reading list with authors from across the world, with more varied backgrounds – and writing about more wide-ranging topics, and from a wider variety of critical perspectives. Our alternative list also reflects our belief that issues such as structural racism, imperialism, ideology and the philosophy of science are central to understanding economics. Continue reading →
As a part of a series on gender equality in the workplace, journalist Eshe Nelson from Quartz wrote a comprehensive piece about the diversity problems in Economics and the role of D-Econ. One of our executive board members, Carolina Alves, sat down with Eshe and shared her view on what needs to be done. Read the full interview here.
On May 17th 2019, Reteaching Economics, in collaboration with Initiative for Promoting Political Economy(IIPPE), hosted a full day workshop on issues related to political economy, heterodox economics, research and teaching (Full programme here). One of the panel discussions was on Challenges and opportunities of Economics curriculum around decolonisation, gender and diversity. D-Econ Advisory Board member Meera Sabaratnam, D-Econ Executive Board member Ingrid Kvangraven gave presentations, along with Ali Al-Jamri (Rethinking Economics – Diversity Campaign Manager), Lorena Lombardozzi (Open University), and Lucia Pradella (King’s College London).
As young scholars, we have formulated a new plan for fostering diversity in both identity and scholarly thinking in economics—preconditions for academic rigor.
Although we have all been experiencing and observing discrimination against women and underrepresented groups in our own departments, organizations, and at conferences since we entered the field of economics, it was really in the wake of the #MeToo movement’s start and the debates that followed the publication of Alice Wu’s paper on misogyny on the Economics Job Market Rumors forum (EJMR, a site largely populated by our peers, where misogyny really hit close to home), that we found the allies and inspiration to concretely do something about this issue. As feminists and academic activists have started speaking up publicly and there has been a proliferation of news articles, podcasts (e.g. this one by the St. Louis Fed), and research on the topic (for example the work INET researchers have done), an increasing number of academics are becoming aware of the problem and also looking for ways to contribute to a more open and inclusive economics field.
The fact that we are in academic communities which are generally not accepted by the mainstream of our field—we use alternative theoretical approaches and methodologies—makes our challenge regarding diversity unique. While everyone in our communities faces significant barriers because of theoretical approach, only a subset faces discrimination based on identity; that is, discrimination based on identity is happening within already marginalized academic communities. While we consider tackling both of these forms of discrimination to be essential to improve the state and inclusivity of economics, we have wrestled with a few dilemmas. For example: While including more women or minority voices on academic panels is one way to improve inclusivity and diversity, should we prioritize marginalized groups from the mainstream over white men from the Global North with a more critical approach? Our first response to this dilemma has been that the subject matter, approach, and methodology of the academic panel must always be the priority, although it will be harder to find women and minorities within certain sub-fields (but certainly not impossible!). However, if one can only find white men from the Global North to speak about a certain approach or topic, it is worth considering broadening the question being asked in order to bring in more gendered, decolonial, or critical perspectives into the debate.
Considering diversity in this broad sense—both of approach and identity— allows us to see how marginalization has happened in our field in more comprehensive terms.
This article appears today on the blog of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, as a part of their series “Diversity and Pluralism in Economics: Problems and Solutions”. Read the full article here.
We are launching a far-reaching and radical initiative to address the problems of discrimination and Euro-centrism in economics. We are a network of economists that aim to promote inclusiveness in the field, both in terms of academic content and in its institutional structures. We are working to promote a field free of discrimination, including sexism, racism, and discrimination based on approach and geography. This involves promoting inclusive practices at sites that determine what legitimate knowledge is, such as conferences, workshops, journals, editorial boards, boards of economics organisations, syllabi, economics departments, and classrooms.
We take a holistic approach, as our mission involves three related, yet distinct, goals. These are:
More equal representation in terms of identity,
More openness in terms of theoretical and methodological approach, and
Decolonising economics by tackling the historically produced Euro-centrism in our field and its claim to neutrality and universality.
The holistic approach is what distinguishes D-Econ from existing initiatives promoting diversity and pluralism in economics. We strongly believe that any approach that focuses exclusively on only one of these three elements runs the risk of being inadequate, as it ignores other key aspects of marginalisation in the field. For example, diversity in identity is not enough to reverse the biases in the field if the dominance of the current paradigm is not also challenged, and challenging the dominant paradigm is not enough to ensure decolonisation.