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Article

Capitalisms: A Global System  

Richard Deeg

The global political economy is a multilevel system of economic activities and regulation in which the domestic level continues to predominate—in other words, it is a global system comprising national capitalist economies. Nations differ in terms of the regulations and institutions that govern economic activity, an observation that is embodied in the so-called “varieties of capitalism” (VoC) literature. Contemporary VoC approaches highlight the significance of social and political institutions in shaping national economies, in stark contrast to neoclassical economics which generally ignores institutions other than markets or sees them as hindrances to the functioning of free markets. Three analytical premises inform the diverse conceptual frameworks within the VoC literature: the firm-based approach, national business systems approach, and the governance or “social systems of production” approach. The VoC literature offers three important contributions to our understanding of the global political economy. The first is that different sources of competitive advantage for firms and nations are institutionally rooted and not easily changed. The second contribution is that these distinct national arrangements give rise to different interests/preferences in how the global economy is constructed and managed. Finally, the VoC approaches provide a framework for analyzing long-term institutional changes in capitalist systems and the persistence of diverse forms of capitalism, including the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 that may usher in yet another epochal change in the “battle of capitalisms.”

Article

Contemporary Trends in Militarization and Politics in Africa  

Godfrey Maringira

In the formative years of African independence, the assumption was that the military would desist from politics. Even though the military is expected to subordinate itself to a civilian government, the militaries in postcolonial Africa continue to meddle in politics. Hence, when the military acts in politics, it seeks to achieve its desired interests. Whether military intervention and coups in Africa are an alternative means to achieve and attain democracy remains a question for debate. There is no consensus on this issue, as military intervention in politics and coups leads to different and varied consequences. However, recent trends in military coups have been celebrated by ordinary citizens across African countries where authoritarian political elites have been overthrown from power.

Article

Corporations, Health, and Global Politics  

Nicholas Freudenberg

Since the mid-20 century, corporations have gained increasing political and economic power to shape the living conditions, lifestyles, governance processes, and environmental exposures that determine global patterns of health and disease. Globalization, the growth of the financial sector, deregulation, and increasing corporate control of science and technology have provided corporations with new power to influence the mechanisms that determine human and planetary health. A growing body of public health and social science scholarship analyzes how corporate use of this economic and political power has become a fundamental determinant of the most serious health crises facing the world. In response, governments, civil society groups and social movements have developed new strategies to challenge corporate power to shape global health governance, protect public health, and reduce health inequities.

Article

Crime: The Illicit Global Political Economy  

John T. Picarelli

Transnational crimes are crimes that have actual or potential effect across national borders and crimes that are intrastate but offend fundamental values of the international community. The word “transnational” describes crimes that are not only international, but crimes that by their nature involve cross-border transference as an essential part of the criminal activity. Transnational crimes also include crimes that take place in one country, but their consequences significantly affect another country and transit countries may also be involved. Examples of transnational crimes include: human trafficking, people smuggling, smuggling/trafficking of goods, sex slavery, terrorism offences, torture and apartheid. Contemporary transnational crimes take advantage of globalization, trade liberalization and new technologies to perpetrate diverse crimes and to move money, goods, services, and people instantaneously for purposes of perpetrating violence for political ends. While these global costs of criminal activity are huge, the role of this criminal market in the broader international economic system, and its effects on domestic state institutions and economies, has not received widespread attention from an international political economy (IPE) or political science perspective. Given the limits on the exercise of extraterritorial enforcement jurisdiction, states have developed mechanisms to cooperate in transnational criminal matters. The primary mechanisms used in this regard are extradition, lawful removal, and mutual legal assistance.

Article

Cultural Political Economy  

William Biebuyck and Judith Meltzer

Cultural political economy (CPE) is an approach to political economy that focuses on how economic systems, and their component parts, are products of specific human, technical, and natural relations. Notwithstanding longer historical roots, CPE emerged as part of the “cultural turn” within the social sciences. Although it is often seen as countering material determinism and the neglect of culture in conventional approaches in political economy, the cultural turn was less about “adding culture” than about challenging positivist epistemologies in social research. For some, cultural political economy continues to be defined by an orientation toward cultural or “lifeworld” variables such as identity, gender, discourse, and so on, in contrast to conventional political economy’s focus on the material or “systems” dimensions. However, this revalorization of the nonmaterial dimensions of political economic life reinforces a sharp distinction between the cultural and the material, an issue which can be traced to the concept of “(dis)embedding” the economy and subordinating society. A more noticeable development, however, is the increasing orientation of critical (CPE) analyses of global development toward the “economization” of the cultural in the context of mutating forms of neoliberalism. Concomitant to the economization of the cultural in narratives of global development is the “culturalization” of the economic. Here attention is paid not just to the growth of cultural industries but to the multiple ways in which culture has been normalized in discourses of global and corporate development.

Article

Debt and International Organizations  

Pablo Nemiña and María Emilia Val

International financial organizations that lend to developing countries are the subject of controversy. Their functions, structures and effectiveness have generated important debates across disciplines, analysts and positions on the ideological-political spectrum. What interests and logic motivate the international financial institutions’ (IFIs) loans? Following an international political economy perspective and mainly based on the literature produced in the early 21st century, we analyze the role played by three variables: the geopolitical and financial interests of powerful global actors, institutional and bureaucratic logic, and the borrower’s interest and domestic policy. These three variables interact and influence the financial decisions made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the major regional development banks (the Inter-American Development Bank [IADB], Asian Development Bank [AsDB], and African Development Bank [AfDB]). On the other hand, what are the main economic and political effects in the recipient countries? The IMF’s credit tackles balance-of-payments crises mainly through adjusting domestic output and consumption, which usually has negative social costs. Development bank lending has diverse effects. Although it tends to boost growth and strengthen domestic accountability, it does not always guarantee the attainment of development goals. In this sense, the literature has found negative impacts on labor rights and forestry, while improvements in health and education cannot always be sustained in the long run.

Article

The Dependency Research Programme: Its Latin American Origins and Global Contemporary Applications  

Stefano Palestini

The dependency research program (DRP) provides an understanding of global capitalism from the perspective of postcolonial societies. Central concepts in international studies, such as the core/periphery, unequal exchange, and dependent development, were developed by scholars working from the DRP perspective. Its core assumptions were shaped by the intellectual and political debates among critical Latin American scholars working in the 1960s and 1970s—a period marked by deep processes of sociopolitical change. Although the origins of the DRP are rooted in Latin America, its development and influence is global in scope. Its ideas and concepts inspired other approaches and fields of research such as the World System Theory and the studies on the developmental state, and its core assumptions informed the works of researchers in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Since the early 2000s and especially after the global financial crisis of 2008, new works have been published drawing on the insights of the DRP. Most of this scholarship has focused on topics such as dependency and global production networks, dependent financialization, dependency and European integration, and the new situations of dependency brought about by the rise of China. Although the DRP has been criticized for lacking clear microfoundations, this article makes the case that by bringing sociopolitical coalitions to the fore and by identifying specific mechanisms of dependency, the DRP will continue being a viable and vibrant approach to explain global inequalities in the contemporary global political economy.

Article

Development Economics: From Classical to Critical Analysis  

Susan Engel

The definition of development has changed over the years since the inception of development economics as a sub-discipline of economics in the 1950s. Initially, development economics was understood as a study of how the economies of nation-states have grown and expanded, placing the discipline in line with the classical and neoclassical traditions of economics. Later, however, some scholars focused on how to improve the welfare of the population and the planet informing the critical tradition. The post-war economic development models were fundamentally classical, but they did allow for some state intervention to achieve development, demonstrating the influence of economist John Maynard Keynes. Postwar leftist development economics coalesced around structuralism and dependency theory, or world systems theory, the latter two having their roots in Marxist political economy. This influenced state-led development approaches most associated with the Asian Tigers. In the 1980s, neoliberal ideas came to dominate development economics, however the high social costs of this approach led to a greater focus on poverty, while more progressive scholars emphasized capabilities and redistribution with growth. Since the Global Financial Crisis, questioning of neoclassical economics has grown and, while it is still far from dead, more heterodox approaches are flourishing.

Article

Development Financing in Latin America  

Leondard E. Stanley and Ernesto Vivares

Development finance (DF) schemes in Latin America have shifted from neoliberal and conservative to neo-developmentalist and populist approaches with no effect on political, economic, social, and environmental circumstances. Regardless of the political-ideological bias of the ruling coalition, critical problems related to the contradictions imposed by the global insertion model have remained the same. The dynamics of ideas, institutions, and actors illustrate the DF network of power and legitimacy. The governance of DF is a contested historical process in which opposite ideas about development, supported by antagonistic groups, confront the political-economic orientations. Different governances are institutional devices that reflect diverse development ideas and specific political-economic settings. Regardless of the model, a generalized crisis questions financial globalization and advises a rethinking of the financing schemes.

Article

Development Theory and the Global Aid Regime  

Franklin Barr Lebo

International development has remained a key driver of global economic relations since the field emerged in the mid-20th century. From its initial focus on colonization and state building, the field has grown to encompass a wide range of issues, theoretical problems, and disciplinary traditions. The year 1945 is widely considered as a turning point in the study of international development. Three factors account for this: the emergence of the United States as an economic hegemon after World War II; the ideological rivalry that defined the Cold War; and the period of decolonization that peaked around 1960, forcing development issues, including foreign aid, state building, and multilateral engagement, onto the global agenda. Since then, development paradigms have continuously evolved, adapted, and been reinvented to address the persistent gap between the prosperous economies of the “developed North” and the frequently troubled economies of the “Global South.” In the early 2000s, a loosely knit holistic paradigm emerged that recognized the deficiencies of its predecessors, yet built on their strengths. Now called “development cooperation,” this holistic approach embraces methodological pluralism in the scholarly study of development, while recognizing that multiple stakeholders contribute to the development agenda in practice from policy practitioners, entrepreneurs, and corporations to nonstate actors such as community groups and Indigenous peoples. In 2015, development cooperation was on full display with the adoption by 193 countries of the expansive United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to serve as the global guideposts for future development initiatives. While exceedingly optimistic in good times, the economic effects of the global pandemic wrought by the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 threatened to undo many of the perceived global gains realized in the development context over the preceding 25 years. Regardless of the speed of recovery of the global system, the profound reverberations on foreign aid and thus the backsliding of global progress indicators is a likely outcome for many years to come.

Article

Economic Diplomacy  

Donna Lee and Brian Hocking

Mainstream studies of diplomacy have traditionally approached international relations (IR) using realist and neorealist frameworks, resulting in state-centric analyses of mainly political agendas at the expense of economic matters. Recently, however, scholars have begun to focus on understanding international relations beyond security. Consequently, there has been a significant shift in the study of diplomacy toward a better understanding of the processes and practices underpinning economic diplomacy. New concepts of diplomacy such as catalytic diplomacy, network diplomacy, and multistakeholder diplomacy have emerged, providing new tools not only to recognize a greater variety of state and nonstate actors in diplomatic practice, but also to highlight the varied and changing character of diplomatic processes. In this context, two themes in the study of diplomacy can be identified. The first is that of diplomat as agent, in IR and international political economy. The second is how to fit into diplomatic agency officials who do not belong to the state, or to a foreign ministry. In the case of the changing environment caused by globalization, economic diplomacy commonly drives the development of qualitatively different diplomatic practices in new and existing economic forums. Four key modes of economic diplomacy are critical to managing contemporary globalization: commercial diplomacy, trade diplomacy, finance diplomacy, and consular visa services in relation to increased immigration flows. The development of these modes of economic diplomacy has shaped the way we think about who the diplomats are, what diplomats do, and how they do it.

Article

Economics of International Communication  

Stefan H. Fritsch

International information and communication have become central cornerstones for global economic, political, social, and cultural actors, issues, structures, and processes. Accordingly, various social science disciplines have become interested in understanding international communication’s economic properties and also produced empirical evidence demonstrating its remarkable impact on global economic development. Subsequently, the relationship between technological evolution and the evolving economics of international communication has become of central importance to the analysis of international communication. Of particular relevance in this context is digitization’s impact on information and communication technologies and related digital conversion processes of once separated media and business sectors. In this context, the constantly evolving economic and technological properties of international information and communication systems and the economic opportunities and challenges they pose also challenge individuals, business enterprises, states, as well as international organizations to pursue structural and policy changes in order to reap the potential benefits of international information and communication or to address emerging negative side effects.

Article

Environment in the Global Political Economy  

Peter M. Haas

The literature on the political economy of the global environment is a hybrid of political economy, international relations (IR), and international environmental politics, looking at the formal and informal institutional factors which give rise to unsustainable habits. The physical environment has long been the subject of social scientists, who recognized that patterns of social activity might contribute to environmental degradation. One of the most common formulations of environmental issues as a collective action is through the metaphor of the Tragedy of Commons, which argues that overpopulation worldwide would undoubtedly contribute to extensive resource depletion. Following the formulation of the core properties of environmental issues as lying at the interstices of a variety of human activities, implications followed for how to conduct research on international environmental politics and policy. Realist and neorealist traditions in international relations stress the seminal role of power and national leadership in addressing environmental problems. Neoliberal institutionalists look at the role of formal institutional properties in influencing states’ willingness to address transboundary and global environmental threats. On the other hand, the constructivist movement in international relations focuses on the role of new ecological doctrines in how states choose to address their environmental problems, and to act collectively. Ultimately, the major policy debates over the years have addressed the political economy of private investment in environmentally oriented activities, sustainable development doctrines, free trade and the environment, environmental security, and studies of compliance, implementation, and effectiveness.

Article

Financial Crises  

Candace Archer

Numerous crises have occurred since the beginnings of the modern economic system, from the Dutch Tulip Mania of 1636 and the South Sea Bubble of 1720 to the Dollar Crisis and Asian Financial Crisis. Scholars have written about the causes and remedies of financial crisis, resulting in a substantial amount of literature on the subject especially after the Great Depression. The writing on financial crisis declined between the end of World War II and the monetary crises in the early 1970s, but has become vibrant again since the 1980s. Some of the earliest voices that contributed to the intellectual history of studying financial crisis include Adam Smith, Karl Marx, David Ricardo, Walter Bagehot, and John Maynard Keynes. These men provided the foundation for understanding the central issues and questions about financial crisis and influenced the debates and scholarship that followed. One such debate involved monetarists vs. business cycle theorists. The monetarists argue that crises are caused by changes in the money supply, while those favoring a business cycle approach insist that expansions and contractions are part of economic interactions and so the economy will at times experience crises. As crises continue to affect both domestic and global financial markets, more perspectives are added to the discussion, including those that invoke rational expectations and economic models, along with those that draw from international political economy. There are also questions that remain unanswered, such as the issue of crisis response and that of financial fragility.

Article

Formal International Institutions and the Regulation of Flows of Goods and Services  

Marc D. Froese

Trade governance rests upon certain economic assumptions and the ensuing political compromises made possible by the growth of an incremental legal consensus. The main economic assumptions are that trade will deliver upon the objectives of socio-economic development, stable, long-term employment opportunities and poverty reduction. These assumptions are theoretically sound, but are increasingly challenged by the complex political realities of global trade. The study of trade in the field of international political economy (IPE) has deep roots in the postwar disciplines of economics and political science. The literature on the history of trade regulation places the current system, with its emphasis on the legitimizing imprimatur of political power and the significance of binding treaty, into a more nuanced context in which present practices, while sometimes novel, are frequently older than most policy makers realize. In the two decades since the finalization of the Uruguay Round and the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a host of significant issues have arisen as scholars and policy makers attempt to implement the WTO’s mandate and navigate the political waters of trade regulation as it relates to domestic law and policy. These include the set of issues raised by the broadening of trade regulation post-Uruguay Round to include trade related intellectual property rights and trade in services, the contentious issue of trade and economic development, and the issue of WTO reform.

Article

Fundamentalism and Globalization  

Gamze Evcimen and Robert A. Denemark

The relationship between fundamentalism and globalization and the agency of social groups in weaving this relationship has generated a significant body of work. This growing body of literature has addressed which political-economic and sociocultural processes are associated with these processes; the manner in which this connection relates to modernity and colonialism; how paradigmatic shifts such as postcolonialism and neoliberalism brought about ruptures and reinforced continuities; and what roles new social actors and political constellations play. Related literature focuses on a broad range of processes, from global socioeconomic changes and urbanization to political constellations, global geoeconomic competition, and international migration. It includes authors who approach such multifaceted processes of fundamentalism and globalization from various perspectives. Recent scholarship also considers connections between fundamentalism and globalization and the rise of authoritarian politics in early 21st century. This dynamic relationship between fundamentalism and globalization presents a series of challenges for both social actors and scholars. How do postmodern deconstruction and reconstruction of modernity affect both ruptures and continuities in this relationship? In what ways does the rise of right-wing politics in early 21st century relate to phenomena such as Christian nationalism and Islamophobia as new forms of fundamentalism? How do the rise of the middle classes and new political-economic constellations relate to similar processes in the Global South? What kind of religious discourses and practices enable the sacralization of neoliberalism? Fundamentalism and globalization should be considered as inextricably embedded in social processes and practices that are both shaped by and actively shaping existing power relations.

Article

Global Commodity Chains and Global Value Chains  

Joonkoo Lee

A commodity chain refers to “a network of labor and production processes whose end result is a finished commodity.” The attention given to this concept has quickly translated into an expanding body of global chains literature. Research into global commodity chains (GCC), and later global value chains (GVC), is an endeavor to explain the social and organizational structure of the global economy and its dynamics by examining the commodity chains of a specific product of service. The GCC approach first emerged in the mid-1980s from world-system research and was reformulated in the early 1990s by development scholars. The development-oriented GCC approach turned the focus of GCC analysis to actor-centered processes in the global economy. One of the initial criticisms facing the GCC approach was its exclusive focus on internal conditions and organizational linkages, lacking systemic attention to the effect of domestic institutions and internal capacity on economic development. Other critics pointed to the narrow scope of GCC research. With the huge expansion in global chains literature in the past decade—not only in volume but also in depth and scope—efforts have been made to elaborate the global chains framework and to render it industry neutral, as partly reflected in the adoption of the term “global value chains.” Three key research themes surround these recent evolutions of global chains literature: GVC governance, “upgrading,” and the social construction of global value chains. Existing literature, however, still has theoretical and methodological gaps to redress.

Article

The Global Economic and Political Causes of Human Trafficking  

Robert G. Blanton and Shannon Lindsey Blanton

While various forms of slavery and forced labor have existed throughout human history, trafficking in humans is a relatively new area of global concern, as specific laws date back only to 2000. As a legal concept, human trafficking is defined according to its requisite acts (recruitment, transport, harboring of victims), means (use of force, fraud, or coercion), and purpose (exploitation). As a basis for scholarly analysis and public policy, trafficking can be viewed in terms of multiple dimensions, as it constitutes a criminal activity, an egregious abuse of human rights, and a pervasive illicit market. Each of these frames suggests different scholarly approaches to examining trafficking, as well as different policy responses to combat it. For example, a criminal activity frame connotes a prosecutorial response toward traffickers by state agencies, while a human rights-based approach suggests increased attention and services to trafficking victims. There is a significant, though underdeveloped, body of scholarship on the causes of human trafficking. Broadly put, extant work focuses on economic, political, and demographic variables, each of which are part of the wider array of factors that can make trafficking more or less likely. Economic factors can be assessed at both micro and macro levels, ranging from the cost–benefit analyses of traffickers to macroeconomic factors such as poverty and globalization. Political correlates of trafficking include armed conflict, the presence of peacekeepers, and the strength and capacity of domestic political institutions. For their part, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can also play a significant role in shaping state responses to trafficking. As trafficking commonly involves the movement of people across borders, some of the same demographic factors that drive migration are also associated with trafficking flows. Taken as a whole, there are still many underexplored avenues for future research. While well over a thousand articles and books have been published on human trafficking since 2000, a majority of extant research is non-empirical in nature, including general overviews of trafficking or analyses of relevant laws. A key factor contributing to this relative dearth of empirical literature is the lack of comprehensive data that reflects the complex and nuanced nature of trafficking. Given the policy-relevant nature of human trafficking, as well as its implications for human rights, there remains a great need for additional evidence-based research in this area.

Article

Globalization and the Global Political Economy  

Ronen Palan and Angus Cameron

Like many other social scientific terms, the exact meaning of globalization has always been unclear. It does not have a single point of origin, but emerged in the mid to late 1980s in several disciplines. In the general sense, globalization is the increasing interaction of people through the growth of the international flow of money, ideas, and culture. It first manifested in media and cultural studies as early as the 1970s—the spread of TV, telephones, information and communication technology (ICT), and other media provided an enduring image of the technological “shrinking” of space, a defining trait of globalization. Advances in the means of transport (such as the steam locomotive, steamship, jet engine, and container ships) and in telecommunications infrastructure (including the rise of the telegraph and its modern offspring, the Internet and mobile phones) have been major factors in globalization, generating further interdependence of economic and cultural activities. In connection to the study of globalization, global political economy (GPE), or international political economy (IPE), is an academic discipline that analyzes economics and international relations. As an interdisciplinary field, it draws on a few distinct academic schools, most notably economics, political economy, political science, sociology, history, and cultural studies. Other topics that command substantial attention among IPE scholars are international trade, international finance, financial crises, macroeconomics, development economics, and the balance of power between and among states and institutions.

Article

The Global Political Economy of Exchange Rates  

Michael G. Hall

The political economy of exchange rates is a scholarly field of study that examines why governments adjust the value of their currencies, choose to have the exchange rate fix or float in its value, or agree or disagree on international rules for the exchange rate. Modern research on this field of study began in the 1970s and has developed several theories to examine these questions over the past decades. Economic theories of exchange rate regimes frequently cite three economic models, the Mundell-Fleming model, optimal currency area theory, and the time-inconsistency problem. International relations theories have focused on the global political economy of regimes, including the role of hegemonic leadership in shaping regimes and resolving disputes, the role of interstate negotiation in the formation and maintenance of regimes. The analysis of negotiation saw contributions from three major traditions of international relations theory: neo-liberalism, realism, and constructivism. Research into second major topic, domestic exchange rate regimes, examines how governments make these decisions. During the 1990s, recognition that governments’ de jure commitment to fixed, floating, or other form of exchange rate did not necessarily correspond to actual practice initiated a new round of research. Scholarly engagements with this puzzle include optimal currency area theory, national interest-based approaches, and national identity-based approaches. There has also been scholarship on the conundrum of de jure v. de facto exchange rate regimes. Another area of research, exchange rate valuation, breaks down into sectoral interest-group approaches focused on production and finance, institutional approaches focused on elections and central bank independence, and some ideational approaches focused on economic and political ideology. Anticipated areas of future research include further development of the political economy of exchange rate valuation regimes; inquiry into the interaction of the spread of populist nationalist movements and exchange rates, leading possibly to more mercantilist valuation policies; and investigation of the length of time governments choose to fix or float their exchange rates.