Global Economic Crisis: Which economy and what crisis? An exploration of alternative frameworks

University Birmingham
Wednesday 2nd April 2014 (10:00-17:00)

Abstracts to be submitted to David Bailey ( by 21 March 2014, 5.00pm.
Registration is free. We also have limited funds to support postgraduate travel and accommodation.

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This workshop is jointly hosted by the International Political Economy Research group, Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) and the Contemporary Capitalism group, Birmingham Business School, both at the University of Birmingham. It is also supported by BISA-IPEG.

Abstracts to be submitted to David Bailey ( by 21 March 2014, 5.00pm. Registration is free. We also have limited funds to support postgraduate travel and accommodation.

Workshop outline

A large body of work has been produced focusing on the causes, consequences and alternative solutions to the global economic crisis. Rather than witnessing a narrowing or convergence of perspectives as a result of cumulative research and analysis, however, academic reflection has (perhaps predictably) resulted in a diffusion of alternative accounts of, explanations for, and perspectives on the global economic crisis. What has become most clear as a result of this debate, therefore, is that the theoretical assumptions that underpin different analyses of the global economy have in turn informed sometimes starkly divergent analyses of the crisis. Different accounts have varied in terms of the processes, mechanisms, actors, and social groups of key importance. As a result, they have also varied in terms of their identification of what sort of crisis this is, the causes that have prompted it, the potential solutions that could (or might have) resolve(d) it, and normative perspectives on the resulting distribution of costs (and benefits).

This workshop aims to facilitate discussion across different critical approaches to political economy, to develop and clarify the conceptual assumptions that alternative positions have and hence to sharpen our understanding of similarities and substantive differences. The aim is that this workshop will initiate a research project that moves beyond the current situation of ‘parallel conversations’ and begins a more systematic understanding and synthesis of political economic approaches to the global financial crisis.


09.45:      Tea/coffee/welcome

10.00:      Introduction

10.10:      Empiricism/eclecticism and/or 'strong theory' in understanding the global economic crisis

Rationale: J.K. Gibson-Graham distinguish between 'weak theory' (which they advocate) and ‘strong theory’ (in which research begins from a clear theoretical starting point). The question remains whether these approaches are irreconcilable. The panel includes lead contributors who are empirically inventive (Montgomerie), who map theoretical approaches empirically (in the Deleuzean sense of ‘empiricism’) (Cameron), or who draw upon an eclectic mix of approaches (Edwards, Stockhammer, Green). In addition, some adopt more certain theoretical starting points in understanding the global economic crisis, especially those of post-Keynesian economics (Stockhammer) and the capital-as-power approach (Green, Hager). In placing these contributors together, there exists the possibility that we might consider different ways in which these different approaches to theorising - empiricism/eclecticism and/or 'strong theory' - lead to different analyses of the global economic crisis.

Lead contributors

  • Johnna Montgomerie (Goldsmiths)
  • Angus Cameron (Leicester)
  • Paul Edwards (Birmingham)
  • Engelbert Stockhammer (Kingston)
  • Jeremy Green (Sheffield)
  • Sandy Hager (LSE)

11.30 - 11.45:   tea/coffee

11.45:  Gendered and/or Marxist accounts of the Global Economic Crisis

Rationale: Arguably, gender continues to sit uncomfortably alongside approaches which focus primarily upon class. Marx can be read in a masculine way - all the workers, and (for that matter) the capitalists, seem to be men, working in the masculine/public sphere of production, or if not that then they are ‘without gender’. This contrasts with approaches to capitalism advanced most consistently by Sylvia Federici in setting out a Marxist critique of social reproduction. The panel brings together lead contributors who consider gendered and sexualised power relations (Smith), as well as different positions within a broad spectrum of Marxist(-influenced) approaches: feminist Marxist political economy (Tepe-Belfrage), Gramscianism (Worth), world-system theory (Wang) and open Marxism (Sutton). In bringing these lead contributions together we hope that one question that might arise is that of how gendered and different Marxist accounts can be (and have been) combined (or not) in understanding the global economic crisis?

Lead contributors

  • Nicola Smith (Birmingham)
  • Daniela Tepe-Belfrage (Sheffield)
  • Owen Worth (Limerick)
  • Zhaohui Wang (Warwick)
  • Alex Sutton (Warwick) 

13.15 - 14.00:   lunch

14.00:  Norms and/or class interests in understanding the global economic crisis

Rationale: It is widely accepted that norms and values matter. But the question remains: how do norms matter for Marxists? Are class interests ‘norms’ or ‘träger’, or both? This panel brings together lead contributors who might be broadly defined as constructivist (Stanley), focus on dominant norms and values (Wiegratz), are constructivist institutionalists (Clift) or who highlight the role of institutional context (Goyer), alongside Marxists with a concern for sense and meaning-making (Jessop) and for whom class struggle is central (Pradella). This combination of lead contributors provides an opportunity for discussion of ways in which (if at all) norms and values can be combined analytically with a focus on economic interests in explaining the global economic crisis.

Lead contributors

  • Liam Stanley (Birmingham)
  • Jörg Wiegratz (Leeds)
  • Ben Clift (Warwick)
  • Michel Goyer (Birmingham)
  • Bob Jessop (Lancaster)
  • Lucia Pradella (Venice) 

15.45 - 16.00:   tea/coffee

16.00 - 17.00:  Next steps

17.00:  End


The workshop will take place over one day, with an evening workshop meal for participants, and with funding to support the travel and accommodation of a number of pre-identified participants from some of the key positions within the debate. The approaches identified below are an indicative suggestion regarding the types of approaches within the debate. A key purpose of the workshop is to highlight similarities and differences between approaches and to begin to break down compartmentalisation within political economy. Participation is not dependent upon identification with a particular school or tradition, our aim is to invite participants who reflect a wide spread of approaches.

  • Constructivist / evolutionary political economy
  • Feminist IPE
  • Post-Keynesian
  • Capital as Power perspective
  • Neo-Gramscian historical materialism
  • Marxist perspectives
  • Institutionalist approaches

Rather than asking participants to present conventional academic papers, we aim to structure the workshop around three questions, which we will ask each participant to provide a brief written response to before the workshop. Each of the workshop sessions will subsequently be based around a discussion of broad positions that emerge from these responses. The three questions are as follows:

  1. What is the dominant theoretical approach that you adopt in understanding or explaining the occurrence of the global economic crisis?
  2. What actors are central to understanding the global economic crisis, what contribution did they play in producing the crisis, and in what way?
  3. Which actors benefited and which suffered as a result of the crisis, and why? 

Confirmed participants: Peter Burnham, Angus Cameron, Ben Clift, Paul Edwards, Michel Goyer, Jeremy Green, Sandy Hager, Bob Jessop, Johnna Montgomerie, Phoebe Moore, Anastasia Nesvetailova, Lucia Pradella, Daniela Tepe, Stuart Shields, Nicki Smith, Liam Stanley, Engelbert Stockhammer, Alex Sutton, Owen Worth

Workshop co-organisers