Political Theory and Heterodox Economics

The Great Financial Crisis and subsequent Great Recession have opened many eyes to the deficiencies of mainstream economics, what is often known as neoclassical economics. Important strands of hitherto overlooked heterodox economics have gained a new prominence. The question this workshop raises concerns the consequences for political theory if neoclassical economics is rejected and an alternative school of economics is taken up. To address this question one could imagine at least two main strands of research. One would be retrospective. It is arguably the case that many of the most prominent works of political theory do incorporate neoclassical models of the economy. In important passages for example of Rawls’s. A Theory of Justice the economy that is present is very similar to neoclassical economics. The questions that might be addressed then are whether it is the case that the economy in works like this is in fact neoclassical. If so is this fact significant? Does the political theory depend logically on the presence of a neoclassical economy? In other words, is that type of economy a precondition for the effectiveness of the theory? Finally, the question could be considered whether it would make a difference to the theory if the economy in the theory were of a different school.

A second strand of research might turn on the challenges posed to political theory byheterodox economics with respect to its description of how the economy works and to policy proposals. For example the school of economics known as Post-Keynesianism argues that the return to labour, that is wages and salaries, is not a function of the marginal product of labour but due to a contest of power between labour and capital. If the latter is in fact the reality of the modern economy how might political theory incorporate such insights into its idea of the fair or just economy? There is a growing discussion within policy circles and economics regarding what is called money finance. Is this something the UK government, for example, ought to do; does it do it already? The question such claims about the nature of public finances opens up for political theory turns on the fact that such fiscal policy is not a transfer from one part of the population to another but a matter of currency issuance.. If this is so, it would seem the normative issues behind funding social policies take on a very different character.

Post-Keynesians also often make as their central policy proposal the public commitment to full employment. The state should always stand ready to finance the employment of those wishing to work who are unable to find work in the private sector. This policy is not a typical goal in mainstream political theory. Could there be a political theory that justifies such a programme and if so what would it look like?

There are, of course, many alternative schools of economics and political theories too. The workshop will be open to the great variety that is out there. The aim is to get the dialogue

Please submit your abstract (500 words) prepared for blind-review by Sunday, 15th May 2016. Final papers to be sent by Mid-August, so that they can be pre-circulated among the workshop participants. For abstract submission and further information, please write to: