Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN06_06b: Science Fiction and Alternatives to Trade Wars, Inequality and Transnational Production Networks
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Julia Eder, Johannes Kepler University Linz
Session Chair: Julia Kristina Maisenbacher, University of Lausanne
Location: GM.333
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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The New Trade Wars. International Trade Theory as Social Science Fiction

Oreste Ventrone

Università degli studi di Napoli Federico II, Italy

One of the main tenets of Donald Trump's rhetoric in the US presidential campaign was the defence of US workers from globalization, either by bringing jobs back from abroad or preventing migrants from entering the country. Once in office, he soon adopted some classical protectionist measures which, a few years earlier, would have been considered completely unthinkable in the country that used to be the main sponsor for globalization. And Trump, albeit the most powerful, is not the first or the only politician to have recently reconsidered the virtues of protectionism. Indeed, the argument is an important element of the political discourse of the new wave of nationalist movements in Europe, brexiteers included.

Inspired by the works of historical sociology and global political economy, this paper aims to analyse the recent literature on the subject, stressing the theoretical, methodological and historical deficiencies, as well as to offer suggestions for alternative research programs.

While we recognise the appeal that these topics can exert in the electoral muscle flexing, the results of our analysis show how the eternal “liberalism vs protectionism” debate, while still very lively, is profoundly flawed at the theoretical level. Moreover, such debate appears largely anachronistic - at least since the development of transnational production networks as the most advanced form of manufacture in the 20th century - and cannot constitute the basis of any serious trade policy in the present world.

It’s Not Democracy, It’s The Market!

Kevin Albertson

Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom

Democracy is unwell, so it is said. In America, and other leading democracies citizens are apparently increasingly critical of the concept of liberal democracy. We argue this is a misdiagnosis; that citizens are not critical of liberal democracy – it is the lack of democracy which is the problem. There is reason to suppose the so-called democratic nations of the west lack legitimacy to the extent that they lack democratic accountability.

There is reason to suppose the governments of so-called democratic nations lack democratic accountability. Over recent decades policy decisions, rather than being taken in accordance with the needs and preferences of the populace, increasingly reflect global neo-liberal (market based) incentive structures. This has impacts ranging from inequality to national unsustainability. Citizen’s are attracted to strong leaders, ones which are prepared to challenge the prevailing system, not because the distrust democracy, but because the prevailing system is fundamentally undemocratic.

The solution is not further to limit democracy for fear of “strong” leaders, but rather to increase democratic accountability, and therefore legitimacy.

How Inequalities Affect The Stability Of Urban Youths In Sidi Bouzid (Tunisia)

Julien Dutour

University of Versailles Saint Quentin, France

Sidi Bouzid is located in the center of Tunisia, at the heart of the governorate bearing the same name, a periphery dominated by the tunisian cores, Tunis and Sfax. In the 1980's, Bourguiba implemented economical specialization policies, strongly reinforced by the Structural Adjustement Plan (1986). These capitalist policies shaped inequalities between central and coastal governorates. During the tunisian revolution, the slogans about the massive unemployment of the young people highlighted the lack of professionnal possibilities which the region, economically specialized in agriculture, was suffering. Through individual and collective paths (Fillieule, 2001) and the biography (Passeron, 1990) of young people from Sidi Bouzid, we will analyze some key issues underlined by this economical instability.

Youssef, Ahmed, Jalel or Tarek are all from Sidi Bouzid. They perceive themselves as poor and unemployed even though their personnal or professionnal situations are different. Dealing with a situation of personnal blockage, they were forced to create some strategies (activism for instance), in order to have an income and to avoid a predetermined social condition. Regardless of their academic levels, they come from working class or modest economic backgrounds. The search for alternative solutions, acting as an appropriation of one's own future at the expense of the Power, can be made with its blessing (for instance, through State funding, or the creation of many private firms within the governorate, Bayat, 2013). This mobilized capital was internalized and applied during the uprising of december 2010.

This study is based on qualitative surveys realized in Sidi Bouzid, interviews with activists, social entrepreneurs, unionists or politicians, and quantitative data from the National Institute of Statistics of Tunisia.

The Role of the State in the Genesis of Social Structure: the Resource-Integrational Model

Zoltán Vastagh

Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary

The presentation focuses on the theoretical description of a new social structure model, but also contains some empirical evidence from the field of income distribution in Hungary.

This new approach, called Resource-Integrational Model, is based primarily on the notions of K. Polanyi's schemes of economic integration and G. Esping-Andersen's welfare regimes, and it considers economic and political power as equal factors in the genesis of class positions.

The theory builds on the fundamental differences between the concepts of market and redistribution, and between state and capital, and arguing that class positions can be traced back to the principles of legitimacy, and to the laws that guarantee and enforce them.

The theory presupposes a systematic combination of the specific types of welfare regimes and the specific patterns of social structure which is the result of the interplay of state, capital, market, and redistribution.

The first empirical results show that the role of the state in defining social structures is decisive even in the globalized economy and show as well that the class approach can be revitalized in the 21st century.

The Resource-Integrational Model may be useful for international comparisons of developed countries, in the analysis and interpretation of temporal changes and spatial differences of macro-level income inequalities, and also in investigating income distribution and income-flows among classes at macro and micro level.

Finally, it may not only be useful for purely scientific purposes, but it might provide arguments in distributional struggles for social movements against capital and government.