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Realizing the Social Economy: Obstacles and Opportunities

Paper Session

Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM

Loews Philadelphia, Anthony
Hosted By: Association for Social Economics
  • Chair: Richard McIntyre, University of Rhode Island

Conservatism and Change in the Brazilian June Journeys: An Exercise in Institutional Political Economy

Roberto Simiqueli
State University of Campinas


In recent Brazilian history, June 2013 is remembered as the heyday of popular demonstrations after the turn of the century. Initially directed against increases in bus fares in São Paulo, the rallies quickly took an unusual turn to the right; middle-class citizens saw the gigantic acts as a valid proxy for voicing their concerns on education, corruption, and the Federal Government's economic and social policies. What is peculiar is that Brazil faced extremely favorable economic conditions, at the time. Unemployment rates were close to a historical minimum, real wages had experienced noticeable raises and inflation was almost a non-issue. Then, what prompted the "wellborn" to take to the streets and voice their discontent? What is implied in the agenda of these mobilizations, now led by right wing propagandists? Our aim is to assess this specific period of Brazilian history through the tension between change and conservatism in institutional political economy. By revisiting Thorstein Veblen's insights on the leisure class' interest in defending status quo and privilege, our paper seeks to provide an explanation of the inherently conservative claims for change issued by the Brazilian middle-class.

The Anti-democratic Logic of Right-wing Populism and Neoliberal Market-fundamentalism

Stephan Puhringer
Johannes Kepler University


The proposed article compares neoliberal market-fundamentalism and right-wing populism based on its core patterns of thinking. Based on an analysis of the work of important founders of market-fundamental economic thinking (particularly Mises, and Hayek) and the arguments brought forward by leading right-wing populist we find many similarities of these two concepts in their “inner/mental images” (Bergen 2012): Both show a world that is split into only two countervailing parts. Right-wing populism shows a society split into two groups, fighting against each other (“the good people”, like Trump’s “forgotten man” versus “the corrupt elite”). In a similar vein, neoliberal market-fundamentalism shows only two possible countervailing economic and societal orders (like “the market” or “the spontaneous order” versus socialism or welfare state or even the state). Thus, we develop a scheme of the similar dual social worlds of right-wing-populism and market-fundamentalism and offer examples from the history of the Republican Party and recent European developments, where these concepts mutually reinforced each other or served as gateways for each other. One example in this context is the influence of the Heritage Foundation (HF) on Republican governments. The HF which is closely connected to the inner core of the “neoliberal thought collective” (Mirowski 2013, 43) provided influential blueprints for Reagan’s reform agenda in 1980 as well as for Trump’s transition team in 2016. The main aim of this article is to show that neoliberal market-fundamentalism and right-wing populism can be perceived as two mutually reinforcing and radicalizing threats to democracy in the 21st century.

The Development of Social Economics in France Since World War II

Richard McIntyre
University of Rhode Island


The theory and practice of social economy has a long history in France. Inspired by both Marxism and Christianity social economics has often been distrusted by certain groups in both of those traditions, even though the practice of social economics is embedded and specifically and legally defined in French society. After briefly situating social economics in France along these lines, this paper will focus on two moments in the post World War II period. The first is 1945-47 when the Communist party was part of the government and it successfully ended support for research on and technical support for social economics because of its association with Christianity. While the specifically French practices of social economy continued to some extent, research atrophied. The second is the 1980s when support for social economy was revived by groups associated with Michel Rocard who held several positions under Mitterand. In his first post as minister of territorial development Rocard was especially zealous in suggesting that cooperatives, social enterprises, non-profits, and foundations could complement the essentially Keynesian program of Mitterand. While communists were also in the first Mitterand government and Mitterand himself was uninterested, Rocard was successful despite the general failure of the first Mitterand program. Today there is a thriving social economy along with a growing research program, especially in the West of France (Brittany and the Loire) where the research for this paper was conducted, although this program is not always well connected to the history of French social economy.

Ideologues, Counselors of the Prince and Participant Observers: Reflections on the Economics Profession

Paolo Ramazzotti
University of Macerata


The aim of the paper is to discuss the responsibilities economist have for the present situation. It argues that they depend on how economists situate themselves relative to the real world. More specifically, it contends that it is possible to distinguish two major strands in economic thought: a closed systems view, based on price-centered coordination of the economy, and; an open systems view whereby coordination involves elements that are strictly associated to prices.
The distinction depends not only on a different theory of economic coordination. It reflects a different view of the world and, consequently, different methodological premises. The very notion of economics turns out to be based on different grounds. This has implications for responsibilities.
While some very general precepts may apply for all scholars, a major conclusion is that, from the perspective of open systems scholars these different grounds should in no way be neglected in favor of a desired and apparent unity of the discipline.
A reasonable way to address the discussion would be to distinguish orthodox, or mainstream, from heterodox approaches. The problem is that the meaning of these terms is open to debate. The paper, therefore, begins with a brief discussion, in Section 2, of how these concepts have been dealt with in recent research. It points out that the accounts provided may well be insightful but do not help us to adequately discuss the basic question this paper wishes to address. Sections 3, 4 and 5 provide an outline of the key features of the first approach, the price-centered one. Sections 6 and 7 present the second approach, presenting prices as part of an instituted economy and pointing out how this relates to systemic openness.
Section 8 provides an exemplification of how the two approaches address concrete issues by presenting a brief discussion of a historical case: the attempt by France’s President Francois Mitterand to carry out an expansionary macroeconomic policy during the monetarist 1980s. Based on the preceding discussion, Section 9 points out that if open systems economists underestimate the methodological differences between the two approaches, the risk is to do bad economics. More specifically, they may fail to identify policies that are actually able to transcend prices and the extant institutional setup. Section 10 briefly concludes.

Teaching & Learning Moral Imagination

Zohreh Emami
Alverno College


As a feminist social economist I understand moral imagination as having two dimensions. First, it is the ability for reasoned judgment necessary to take account of the values embedded in knowledge, structures, conventional wisdom and contemporary narratives about social economic realities and possibilities. Second, it is the equanimity to imagine possibilities and build consensus based on scholarship grounded in values of abundance vs. scarcity, communitarianism vs. individualism, cooperation vs. competition, sustainability vs. short-termism. For me teaching for moral imagination, therefore, is an attempt to learn and practice a holistic approach which includes the ethics of care and integrates lessons from multiple movements (e.g. civil rights and other nonviolent movements, women’s movement), traditions and economic literature (e.g. feminism, social economic as well mainstream economics) to imagine, devise, and implement alternatives. In this paper I discuss what I have learned as a designer and facilitator of learning experiences in which students investigate the nature of social economic structures and the value and assumptions on which they are constructed. I explore how as teachers of economics we might begin to imagine students as catalysts for change by teaching a pluralist history of economic conversations and debates and by helping them value, explore, and express their own experiences in larger contexts and develop communitarian visions for the good life.
JEL Classifications
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches