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Empire's salvage heart

Why diversity matters in the global political economy

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

What if those translations across difference that characterize global supply chains were to inspire a model of power and struggle in the contemporary political economy? In contrast to the unified Empire offered by Hardt and Negri, supply chains show us how attention to diversity-and the transformative collaborations it inspires-is key to both identifying what is wrong with the world today and imagining what we can do about it. This article describes a politics in which transformative collaborations across difference form the radical heart of possibility. Nonhumans are involved, as well as people with starkly different backgrounds and agendas. Love might be transformed.

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Philip Manow

The article addresses the relationship between party systems and welfare state regimes in Europe. It argues that the European party systems show a systematic variation with respect to the electoral success of communist parties – which is argued to be related to the intensity of past conflicts between the nation-state and the Catholic Church in the mono-confessional countries of Europe's south. The article presents empirical evidence for the manifestation of the pro-clerical/anti-clerical cleavage in the party systems of Southern Europe and sketches the consequences for the political economy of these countries. The article demonstrates the impact of religious cleavages (rather than the conflict between capital and labor) on the shape of social policy in a country. The Southern European variety of the welfare state differs markedly from the Continental and Northern European varieties, with fragmented and particularistic provisions, decentralized occupation-based social security, strong insider-outsider cleavages and a weak state. This testifies to the broad range of meanings the "social" may assume.

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Carroll L. Estes

In the United States, social policy debate concerning the elderly has, for almost two decades, been permeated by the rhetoric of crisis and attacks on the entitlement programmes that provide the backbone of support for older persons. Based on demographics alone, with older women outliving and outnumbering older men, ageing is appropriately defined as a gender issue and, in important respects, a women’s issue. Corroborating this view, Dr Robert Butler, former director of the National Institute on Aging, recently described the U.S. health programmes for the elderly, Medicare and Medicaid, as ‘women’s programs’ for the very old (Butler, 1996).

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Kristian Kristiansen

In this article I examine how long-term economic strategies in the Bronze Age of northern Europe between 2300 and 500 BCE transformed the environment and thus created and imposed new ecological constraints that finally led to a major social transformation and a "dark age" that became the start of the new long-term cycle of the Iron Age. During the last 30 years hundreds of well-excavated farmsteads and houses from south Scandinavia have made it possible to reconstruct the size and the structure of settlement and individual households through time. During the same period numerous pollen diagrams have established the history of vegetation and environmental changes. I will therefore use the size of individual households or farmsteads as a parameter of economic strength, and to this I add the role of metal as a triggering factor in the economy, especially after 1700 BCE when a full-scale bronze technology was adopted and after 500 BCE when it was replaced by iron as the dominant metal. A major theoretical concern is the relationships between micro- and macroeconomic changes and how they articulated in economic practices. Finally the nature of the "dark age" during the beginning of the Iron Age will be discussed, referring to Sing Chew's use of the concept (Chew 2006).

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David Reisman

Reclaiming Political Economy

Raphael de Kadt

David Reisman has written a book of extraordinary scope, depth and subtlety. It is at once both an impressive tour d’horizon, and a work of great insight and expository control. The ostensible subject of the book is the contribution of five seminal thinkers to political economy and, for want of a better term, ‘sociological economics’. While each writer’s contribution is portrayed in a rich, deeply informed, evenhanded and judicious manner, Reisman’s real achievement goes well beyond deft exposition and exegetical acumen. He succeeds in showing both the richness and the complexity of the thinking of the five, as well as in portraying the complexity of the substantive issues with which they deal. He succeeds, too, in situating their thought in the broader historical context both of its genesis and its reception. Thus, in addition to the accounts of the principal subjects of his study, he skillfully weaves accounts of the contributions of ‘notable others’ into the text. Thus Downs, Pareto, Hobhouse, Bosanquet, Green and Crosland are—among others—each given important, illuminating, ‘walk on’ parts. Their contributions constitute significant reference points for the engagement with the contributions of the ‘principals’.

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Christopher S. Allen

Henry Farrell, The Political Economy of Trust: Institutions, Interests and Interfirm Cooperation in Italy and Germany (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Jeremy Leaman, The Political Economy of Germany under Chancellors Kohl and Schroeder: Decline of the German Model? (New York: Berghahn, 2009)

Wolfgang Streeck, Re-Forming Capitalism: Institutional Change in the German Political Economy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009)

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After dispossession

Ethnographic approaches to neoliberalization

Oscar Salemink and Mattias Borg Rasmussen

Since the 1980s globalization has taken on increasingly neoliberalizing forms in the form of commoditization of objects, resources, or even human bodies, their reduction to financial values, and their enclosure or other forms of dispossession. “After dispossession” provides ethnographic accounts of the diverse ways to deal with dispossessions by attempts at repossessing values in connection to what has been lost in neoliberal assemblages of people and resources and thus how material loss might be compensated for in terms of subjective experiences of restoring value beyond the financial. The analytical challenge we pursue is one of bridging between a political economy concerned with the uneven distribution of wealth and resources, and the profound changes in identity politics and subject formation that are connected to these. We therefore argue that any dispossession may trigger acts of repossession of values beyond the financial realm, and consequently that suffering, too, entails forms of agency predicated on altered subjectivities. This move beyond the suffering subject reconnects the study of subjectivities with the analysis of alienation, disempowerment, and impoverishment through dispossession and attempts at recapturing value in altered circumstances.

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Economy, Society, the State

The Revival of Political Economy

David Reisman

It’s all in Marshall: ‘Political Economy or Economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and with the use of the material requisites of wellbeing’ (Marshall, 1890 [1949]: 1). Well-being is better than ill-being. Production, consumption, distribution and exchange make us feel better off in our own estimation. The clergyman saves souls. The doctor saves bodies. The banker saves savings. The economist saves wellbeing. We all do what we can.

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Douglas Mair

The global economy is battling financial crisis and recession on an unprecedented scale. Reisman's book Democracy and Exchange reviews the contributions of a number of thinkers including Adam Smith and Joseph Schumpeter to the task of making ordinary people feel tolerably happy with the outcomes that affect their lives. The article argues that although Smith is viewed as the principal figure in the Scottish political economy tradition, there are other writers, notably John Rae whose ideas may have more contemporary relevance than those of Smith. A return to the ideas of Rae and Schumpeter, particularly on fiscal policy, may provide important insights into the financial crisis.

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Michael S. Carolan

This article maps key epistemological and ontological terrains associated with biotechnology. Beginning with the epistemological, a comparison is made between the scientific representations of today, particularly as found in the genomic sciences, and the scientific representations of the past. In doing this, we find these representations have changed over the centuries, which has been of significant consequence in terms of giving shape to today's global political economy. In the following section, the sociopolitical effects of biotechnology are discussed, particularly in terms of how the aforementioned representations give shape to global path dependencies. By examining the epistemological and ontological assumptions that give shape to the global distribution of informational and biological resources, this article seeks to add to our understanding of today's bioeconomy and the geographies of control it helps to create.