Title: '‘Financialization, State Action and the Contested Policy Practices of Neoliberalism’, Competition and Change, 26 (2), 2022, 215-219. DOI: 10.1177/10245294221086864/.
This article was co-authored with Craig BerryLink opens in a new window from Manchester Metropolitan University and Inga RademacherLink opens in a new window from King's College London. It serves as the Introduction to a special section of the journal, which the three of us have co-edited.
Title: 'The Place of Glasgow in The Wealth of Nations: Caught between Biography and Text, Philosophical and Commercial History', History of Political Economy, 54 (5), 2022, 975-990. DOI: 10.1215/00182702-10005816.
This article will appear in a symposium of the leading journal in its field, History of Political Economy, at some stage in 2022. The symposium is called, 'Reading Practices in Political Economy: The Case of Adam Smith'. My contribution relates to what is permissible when confronted with an absence in a text, and the particular absence through which I illustrate my argument is that of the place that Smith knew best when formulating his economic theory, Glasgow. We know from biographical studies of his life that Smith shared deep connections with the Glasgow merchants of his day: socialising with them, forming lasting friendships, and using them as key interlocutors when trying to specify the general principles on which economic progress was founded. Yet we also know from the text of The Wealth of Nations that Smith made no mention of these connections and hid the merchants he knew so well within generic character types. Why might this have been so? The methodological argument against seeking to 'correct' such absences nevertheless permits clues to be identified in the text which might reveal why noticeable absences are there. I focus on the tension between two genres of history visible within the text. Smith placed great emphasis on writing history in a philosophical register as a means of bringing abstract principles of economic development to light, but the commercial history of Glasgow entailed an unnatural progression to a global entrepôt from the perspective of his commercial history.
Title: 'Michael Gove's War on Professional Historical Expertise: Conservative Curriculum Reform, Extreme Whig History and the Place of Imperial Heroes in Modern Multicultural Britain', British Politics, published online, May 19th 2019. DOI: 10.1057/s41293-019-00118-3.
Abstract: Six years of continuously baiting his opponents within the history profession eventually amounted to little where it mattered most. UK Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, finally backtracked in 2013 on his plans to impose a curriculum for English schools based on a linear chronology of the achievements of British national heroes. His 'history as celebration' curriculum was designed to instil pride amongst students in a supposedly shared national past, but would merely have accentuated how many students in modern multicultural Britain fail to recognise themselves in what is taught in school history lessons. Now that the dust has settled on Gove's tenure as Secretary of State, the time is right for retrospective analysis of how his plans for the history curriculum made it quite so far. How did he construct an 'ideological' conception of expertise which allowed him to go toe-to-toe for so long with the 'professional' expertise of academic historians and history teachers? What does the content of this ideological expertise tell us about the politics of race within Conservative Party curriculum reform? This article answers these questions to characterise Gove as a 'whig historian' of a wilfully extreme nature in his attachment to imperial heroes as the best way to teach national history in modern multicultural Britain.
Title: 'Crusoe, Friday and the Raced Market Frame of Orthodox Economics Textbooks', New Political Economy, 23 (5), 2018, 544-559. DOI 10.1080/13563467.2017.1417367. Article published on the NPE website in full open access format.
Abstract: 'Crusoe' and 'Friday' signifiers necessarily evoke a world of racialised hierarchies. Economics textbooks are perhaps the sole remaining medium to simply wish away their resulting relations of power. These are the teaching aids that inspire students analytically to think of markets as pristine economic institutions and persuade them politically that they should want to will such institutions into being. Yet they all-too-often rely on the pedagogical device of the so-called Robinson Crusoe Economy, where the main characters from Defoe's most famous novel are required to instinctively recognise their equality within voluntary contracting agreements so that each can act as the neoclassical homo economicus. In other words, economists' Crusoe and Friday figures must behave antithetically to what has historically been implied by the 'Cruose' and 'Friday' signifiers. But how can this be so, given how commonplace it was when Defoe's characters were first introduced into economic theory in the 1850s to justify white settler colonialism on the grounds that 'savage' societies lacked the capacity to be self-governing? The raced market frame that emerged in practice from this assumption continues to be reproduced uncritically today by Crusoe's and Friday's presence in the textbook explanation of the most basic model of market exchange.
Title: 'Brexit, the Left Behind and the Let Down: The Political Abstraction of 'the Economy' and the UK's EU Referendum', British Politics, 13 (1), 2018, 17-30. DOI: 10.1057/s41293-017-0062-8. A view-only version of the full text is available from Springer Nature's Shared It function. The paginated version is also available to those who are able to login to the journal's website.
Abstract: UK voters' decision to overturn the country's European Union membership has left most parliamentarians looking rather distant from the constituents they represent. The politicians staked much on assuming that people would not vote to sabotage their economic self-interest, but this message conspicuously failed to resonate. When politicians spoke in abstract terms about the needs of 'the economy', significant numbers understood this to mean labour market conditions that have personally served them badly. It has been commonplace since the referendum to refer to these people as the 'left behind'. However, they might more usefully be descrbed as the 'let down'. Since the restructuring of the UK economy in line with global competitiveness norms they have been required to earn their rights as citizens through demonstrating their work readiness. Yet hard work on its own is now no longer sufficient for so many people to receive the rewards promised under the terms of the new social contract. They have been largely abandoned to their fate by the politicians as labour market segmentation has led to a significant expansion of the in-work poor. These people voted in large numbers against continued EU membership. This suggests that the referendum result can be seen at least in part as a revolt against the way in which the abstraction of 'the economy' has informed UK politics in recent decades.
Title: 'George Osborne's Machonomics', British Politics, 12 (4), 2017, 536-554. The full text is available in view-only format from Springer Nature's Shared It factility: http://rdcu.be/vt4p. The paginated version is also available for those who are able to login to the journal's website.
Abstract: Feminist scholars have described the behavioural traits that have flourished within the global economy in terms of a hegemonic 'I know best' masculinity. Whilst this literature has typically focused on a small number of business leaders around whom popular myths of wealth creation have developed, the same way of thinking might also be applied to policy-makers. At the very least, this study of George Osborne's time as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer reveals how consistently he adopted the mantle of an omniscient hegemonic masculine subject in his approach to deficit reduction. It was an attitude to the task at hand I label 'machonomics'. This concept is designed to mean more than that the outcomes of his austerity programme disproportionately disadvantaged women. It also captures the type of policy-maker that Osborne tried so hard to convince others he was. His self-projection finds a parallel, I argue, in what the macroeconomic theory literature describes as the specifically 'conservative' policy-maker, someone reputed for trusting his own judgement even in the face of widespread dissent against his anti-social policies. The conservative policy-maker exudes the hegemonic masculinity that Osborne embodied in his refusal to voice opinions in public suggesting that there were viable alternatives to painful public expenditure cuts.
Title: 'Rousseau's Crusoe Myth: The Unlikely Provenance of the Neoclassical Homo Economicus', Journal of Cultural Economy, 10 (1), 2017, 81-96. The article is available from the Journal of Cultural Economy website in fully open access format.
Abstract: The neoclassical homo economicus has escaped the narrow confines of economic theory and is today embodied countless times over in the everyday behaviour that so much of the modern economy is set up precisely to serve. Not all of the authors of leading books on economic principles have named the neoclassical homo economicus, but when they have done so it is overwhelmingly in the same way. They have given him the human form of a Robinson Crusoe figure, despite the fact that his behavioural motivations and his practical conduct owe next-to-nothing to Daniel Defoe's original characterisation. I suggest that the route to today's cultural familiarity with the neoclassical homo economicus instead passes through the entirely unwitting hands of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He substituted Defoe's account of the castaway's continuing deference to prevailing social norms with his own idealised vision of how the individual might use solitude to escape the corrupting influences of modern society. It is altogether another desocialised individual also bearing the Crusoe name who has latterly shaped many of the economics textbooks' renderings of the neoclassical homo economicus. However, we can get to him only by first understanding the essential features of Rousseau's Crusoe myth.
Title: 'Historicising Ricardo's Comparative Advantage Theory, Challenging the Normative Foundations of Liberal IPE', New Political Economy, 22 (3), 2017, 257-272. The article is available from the New Political Economy website in fully open access format.
Abstract: David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage is now two centuries old, but it remains at the heart of economists’ theories of international trade. It also continues to provide the underlying economic ethic for liberal IPE. Ricardo’s numerical illustration of the mutually shared gains from specialisation and trade involved complementary structures of comparative advantage being exhibited by a productively superior hypothetical 'Portugal' and a productively inferior hypothetical 'England'. Yet the historical back-story of actual eighteenth-century trading relations between the two countries reveals Portugal’s repeated struggles to meet its treaty obligations to the English in the context of the European quest for empire. Those difficulties persisted even when it harnessed its (less profitable) commercial trade to (much more profitable) slave trading practices. Ricardo’s account of the purely mathematical logic of comparative advantage writes out of economic history the centrality of both imperial wars and African slavery to the early English and Portuguese experience of 'free' trade. Given this historical back-story, liberal IPE thus appears to be in urgent need of new normative foundations to decouple it from these highly illiberal economic processes.
Title: 'Re-Establishing What Went Wrong Before: The Greenspan Put as Macroeconomic Modellers' New Normal'
Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies, 7 (July), 2014, 80-101: http://www.criticalglobalisation.com/Issue7/80_101_GREENSPAN_PUT_JCGS7.pdf.
Abstract: Almost a decade after his retirement Alan Greenspan remains the world's most immediately recognisable and highest profile central banker. His opinions therefore still matter, even if it is no longer his decisions that move markets. This article reviews Greenspan's ostensible move away from efficient markets theorising as he has tried to come to terms with the patterns of 'euphoria' and 'fear' he believes explain the build-up to the global financial crisis. In truth, though, it looks much more like an attempt to rescue the reputation of his free market models in the face of an increasing number of sceptics. Greenspan's new memoire fails to acknowledge what, in effect, was the free put option the Federal Reserve provided to Wall Street traders under his leadership. Indeed, it goes as far as to promote a visualisation technique for how macroeconomic modellers should view the basic structure of the market environment which treats the now increasingly infamous 'Greenspan put' as an ostensibly formal component of asset prices. The style of policy-making that helped to stoke such extreme asset price inflation prior to the crisis is now embedded (i) within the class of models that Greenspan has presented as the post-crisis antidote to efficient markets theorising and (ii) within the recent historical data being used in the calibration tests of the models' efficacy. What macroeconomic modellers can see in the market environment when embracing the supposedly new reality of euphoria and fear is a manifestation of what the prior existence of the Greenspan put first brought into view.
Title: 'The Great Transformation and Progressive Possibilities: The Political Limits of Polanyi's Marxian History of Economic Ideas', Economy and Society, 43 (4), 2014, 603-625.
The electronic version is on the Economy and Society website in fully open access format. It is also featured on Routledge's Most Read website, which provides access to the three most downloaded papers from each of its social science journals for 2014: http://explore.tandfonline.com/page/bes/social-sciences-most-read/sociology.
Abstract: Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation remains one of the stand-out texts of twentieth-century political economy, yet it contains important conceptual ambiguities. Perhaps most significantly, the later chapters reveal the influence of his own notion of an ‘always embedded economy’, but the earlier chapters are constructed around a much more abstract conception of ‘economy’ derived from an essentially Marxian history of economic ideas. Marx worked within the basic Ricardian conception of economy as a method of immanent critique, but then proceeded to also project it backwards onto pre-Ricardian traditions of economics. Polanyi did likewise, I argue, consequently missing the opportunity to connect his own notion of an always embedded economy to pre-Ricardian studies of the substantive basis of functioning economic relations. I use the following pages to try to restore one such link, in this instance to Adam Smith’s account of the moral ‘sympathy’ underpinning the process of market coordination. This reconstruction also has implications for progressive political possibilities today. Polanyian responses to the ongoing crisis have tended to be framed by the basic Ricardian conception of economy and have accordingly been restricted to a discussion of more market or less, more austerity or less. By contrast, tracing the lineage from pre-Ricardian concerns to Polanyi’s notion of an always embedded economy allows the much more potentially radical question to be asked of what sort of economic relations best serve essential human needs.
This is the Introduction to a special section of the Review of International Political Economy, 26 (1), 2019, 1-24, co-authored with Caroline Kuzemko and Andrew Lawrence. It has a DOI of 10.1080/09692290.2018.1553796 (https://doi.org/10.1080/09692290.2018.1553796). The aim of the special section is to show how energy markets are changing: in essence, in scale, in constitution, in spatial characteristics and in distributional implications. Energy markets are today bigger than ever before, in that they now encompass an ever wider range of actors and sites of interaction. They are also almost certainly more complex institutional entities than at any previous time in their history. When politicians express faith in 'the market' to cater for all of their energy needs, then, they are now typically doing so whilst the exchange relations conducted between energy buyers and energy sellers look to be modelled less and less on the pure abstraction of 'the market'.