XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Sociology on the move, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 2010

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Research Committee on
Economy and Society RC02


Programme Coordinator

Sylvia Walby, RC02 President, Lancaster University, UK, S.Walby@Lancaster.ac.uk

Sessions descriptions

Session 1: New approaches to understanding economic inequalities and their significance
Chair: Andrew Sayer, Lancaster University, UK, a.sayer@lancaster.ac.uk 
Some recent approaches to understanding economic inequalities are distinguished by their focus on the role that economic conditions play in real people's lives rather than on inequalities in income in themselves, important though those are. They include the capabilities approach pioneered by Sen and Nussbaum, the concept of contributive justice introduced by Paul Gomberg, Bourdieu's concepts of capitals and field, and attempts to interrelate the politics of distribution and recognition initiated by Fraser and Honneth. The purpose of the panel is to assess such approaches critically and explore what economic sociology can contribute to them.

Session 2: Envisioning real utopias
Chair: Erik Olin Wright, University of Wisconsin, USA, wright@ssc.wisc.edu
There was a time, not so long ago, when both critics and defenders of capitalism believed that “another world was possible.” It was generally called “socialism.”  Most people in the world today, especially in the economically developed regions of the world, no longer believe in this possibility.  Capitalism seems to most people part of the natural order of things, and pessimism has replaced the optimism of the will that Gramsci once said was essential if the world was to be transformed.   This panel will explore a range of ways of organizing economic activity that constitutes alternatives to capitalism. Some of these exist in prefigurative form in the world today; others are theoretical models of alternatives.  

Potential topics for specific presentations:

      1. unconditional basic income
      2. cooperatives
      3. the Quebec social economy
      4. wage earner funds revisited
      5. open source
      6. the creative commons.

There is a web-site for those who wish to participate in and engage with this panel: http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/ERU-ISA.htm

Session 3: RC02 Dinner

Session 4: Theorizing gender and economy
Chair: Heidi Gottfried, Wayne State University, USA, ag0921@wayne.edu
This session will explore feminist political economic theories of gender and economy in different national, supranational and local contexts.  Feminist political economic approaches highlight the structuring influence of gender relations within and across households, states and firms, and acknowledge the importance of social reproduction for understanding gender biases built into production regimes.  They consider a broad set of social relationships and political accommodations around “productive” and “reproductive” work encompassing both public and private forms of power through the introduction of linking concepts such as gender contracts, reproductive bargains, work-care regimes, and gender regimes. Substantive foci include, but are not limited to: the quality of employment (especially part-time and temporary employment); mutually reinforcing or contradictory social and economic policies and regulations at different scales; and commodification of care. I invite contributions that will advance comparative analysis in order to develop new perspectives for understanding gender inequality

Session 5: Restricting the commodification of labor
Chair: Karen Shire, University Duisburg-Essen, Germany, karen.shire@uni-due.de
Karl Polyani depicts the social history of the nineteenth century as a „double movement,“ extending market organization to “genuine commodities” while restricting market organization in the case of the fictional commodities, labor, land and money. The focus of this panel is on contemporary developments in the “double movement” in respect to the fictional commodity labor. Many of the recent developments in the (de-) regulation of employment are better understood as a re-commodification of labor and as the transformation of the “double movement” into a “single movement” of extending market organization from the “genuine” to the “fictional” commodities. Informalization of labor, the expansion of temporary and low-wage work, the increasing salience of social inequalities and declining coverage of social protections and social welfare are all evidence of (re-) commodification. Are we indeed witnessing the “demolition of society” (Polyani), or is there evidence of the “double movement” anew in regulatory programmes for securing “employability,” “equal treatment,” “equal opportunity,” and “decent work”? The de-commodification of labor in many national industrial market societies was deeply biased toward securing protections for a core male skilled workforce. Are declining livelihoods and working conditions evidence of the commodification of labor, or of a more selective form of de-commodification, exacerbating old, and generating new social divisions? The papers in this session may address the re- and de-commodification of labor in respect to regulatory changes and/or the impact of changes on social inequalities.

Session 6: Energy transitions and the evolution of global governance
Chair: Chris Chase-Dunn chriscd@mail.ucr.edu and Kirk Lawrence kirk.lawrence@email.ucr.edu, University of California-Riverside, USA.
There is a large literature in social science about the importance of the capture of free energy in the evolution of socio-cultural complexity and hierarchy. This panel focuses on the relationships between energy regime transitions (from wood to coal to oil, etc.) and the evolution of institutions of global governance in recent centuries and in the coming decades of the 21st century. The rise and fall of hegemonic core powers and the emergence of international political organizations have been affected by energy regime transitions in the past are likely to be so in the future. This panel will gather together social scientists who are researching the relationships between physical energy and power structures. How will the coming era of "peak oil" affect the possibilities for further political globalization and eventual global state formation?

Session 7: Business meeting

Session 8: The transnational capitalist class and its relationship to the national capitalist class  
Chair: Georgina Murray, Griffith University, Australia g.murray@griffith.edu.au
This stream wants to focus on whether there is a transnational capitalist class? If there is, what is the relationship between the transnational capitalist class and your nation state’s capitalist class? Is there hegemony underlying these relations? Or are the two compatible with a division of labour between them? Or are they in conflict? What evidence is there of how they overlap or interlock in business or in shared social and professional organizations?  If you have written in this area we would like to see your paper. If you have evidence of countries other than your own and its relationship to the transnational class then that would also be of great interest.

Session 9: Recent dynamics of global inequality
Chairs: Christian Suter, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, christian.suter@unine.ch and Hanno Scholtz, University of Zurich, Switzerland, scholtz@soziologie.uzh.ch
The period from 1989 to 2007 was characterized by rising inequalities within
most societies, and inequality between societies was impeded from rising
only by the Chinese and Indian catch-up processes. The dynamics behind these developments are not yet fully understood, but skill-demanding technologies and re-organizations, globalization, institutional dynamics and changes in household composition for sure have played a role. Two years after the RC02 midterm conference on "Inequality beyond globalization", this session asked how these dynamics and their understanding have evolved in recent years, especially since the crisis of end-2008.

Session 10: Bringing the military back in
Chairs: Jeffrey Kentor, University of Utah jeffrey.kentor@soc.utah.edu and Andrew Jorgenson, North Carolina State University akjorgen@sa.ncsu.edu USA
We invite submissions for papers that integrate the military into theoretical models and empirical analyses within a broader political-economic context. For example, paper topics could include the impacts of militarization on development, inequality, human well-being, or the environment as well as structural conditions and interrelationships that lead to changes in the structure and roles of military institutions in comparative perspective.

Session 11: Business and civil society
Chair: Cristina Puga, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico crispunam@yahoo.com.mx
The intersection of civil society and markets is the focus of this panel.  Civil society is important as a producer of welfare, participant in governance networks, and a monitor of excessive power, planetary damage and inequality, as well as producing new initiatives, ideas and proposals about social organization. Although civil society is usually considered to be separate from market and power (economy and politics) it may be that markets need civil society to develop and flourish as much as civil society requires the economic relations created by markets in order to carry out its projects.   

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) (sometimes known as Non-Governmental Organizations or NGOs, and sometimes referred to as Third Sector) can have impact as employers and as development promoters.  In some places, CSOs are establishing links with private business, creating an intersecting field where market interests combine with those of community and service, potentially creating benefits for both partners. This may range from dialogue and consultation to institutionalized strategies, including business participation in civil society committees and organizations.  Relevant questions include: How successful have CSOs been in its relations with business?  How do both spheres relate and what contradictions do they encounter?  How does civil society contribute to a reshaping of economy?  What is the role of philanthropy and/or of ‘corporate social responsibility’?  Is business contributing to governance as civil society representatives? Is a civil society/business partnership really possible? How do such alliances depend on encouragement and support by governments and international organizations?

Session 12: Multinational corporations and changing focus of corporate social responsibility
Chair: S.L. Hiremath, Gulbarga University, India, slhiremath@rediffmail.com
Globalization has enhanced operational opportunities for Multi National Corporations (MNCs); particularly in the developing economies wherein Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the buzz word in corporate circles. MNCS, especially those from developed countries, having been identified as of alien origin, are particularly looked upon as obliged to engage in CSR initiatives with substantive outlays, addressing the interests of diverse stakeholders of the host country. CSR, as such, has come to stay as a hallmark of good corporate governance, positive corporate intervention not only for undoing the negative implications of their operations but also to improve the quality of physical and social life of people who are significantly affected by and contribute to the corporate endeavors. However, several issues have been raised regarding the philosophy, ideology, focus, strategy, relevance and achievements of CSR initiatives by MNCs, particularly in the context of Third World countries owing to alien origin of MNCs and complex and intricate socio-cultural realities prevailing in relatively traditional developing economies. Verbatim transfer of Western theoretical approaches and perspectives on CSR as well as CSR strategies and initiatives are assumed to be out of place in the Third World context requiring rational contextualization of CSR philosophy. Such an endeavor needs empirical insights and inputs in the CSR operations of MNCs as they are being envisaged and implemented in the developing countries. This session invites papers that focus theoretically and empirically on the philosophy, focus, initiatives, relevance and impact of CSR initiatives and interventions by MNCs in the context of the Third World Countries.

Session 13: Financial crises
Chair: Bob Jessop, Lancaster University, UK, r.jessop@lancaster.ac.uk
The panel will examine recent global financial and economic system crises, with a particular interest in the concept of tipping point. The field of economic crises is complex: they have external as well as internal causes and may also influence extra-economic orders, leading to revolutions (Tsarist Russia, Weimar Germany), major reforms (New Deal, neo-liberal regimes), or important policy adjustments (contemporary Scandinavia). There are contrasting interpretations of any given crisis: it may be interpreted as a crisis within a system (a challenge resolvable through modest reforms) or a crisis of that system (a tipping point requiring radical shifts in economic and political regimes).  The panel would focus on current economic crises and their treatment, but could also include earlier examples. The panel will identify the implications of different accounts for economic-political reform. The panel welcomes papers on both the objective causes of the crises and also their semiotic analysis; and the use of a variety of methods.

Session 14: Is there a gender dimension to the financial crisis?
Chairs: Jo Armstrong, Lancaster University, UK, j.e.armstrong@lancaster.ac.uk and Sofia Strid, Lancaster University, UK, s.strid@lancaster.ac.uk
In the debate on the past and the future of the global financial architecture, questions on how gender relations influence how finance is organized and operates are just developing. There is a challenge to make visible, document and to theorize the gender relations and their implications. From the gendering of the architecture, to the gendered impact of the crisis 'on the ground', (in)action and recovery policies have gendered effects. How is the financial crisis gendered both globally and in diverse global regions? How and why are the gender implications of the ensuing economic recession so different in different global regions? How should gender relations inside the institutions be restructured during the reform of the global financial architecture? Are the recovery packages re-embedding gender inequality? The panel intends to bring together a range of papers that will enable a comparison and contrast across different countries. This could include examining evidence of shifting inequalities as a consequence of the crisis, looking at how the impact can be assessed, and examining efforts to restructure the architecture, or how existing inequalities mean that such re-visioning is blocked.

Session 15: Social rights and women's work in an era of globalization
Chair: Val Moghadam, Purdue University, USA. vmoghada@purdue.edu
Economic globalization – and its concomitants of liberalization and privatization – has entailed a steady erosion of labour rights since the 1980s, a situation that will worsen with the global recession. The process has further entailed the demise of the welfare or developmental state, the curtailment of many social benefits and entitlements, and the weakening of trade unions. The so-called feminization of labour, which was coined to refer to the growth of the female labour force at a time of deteriorating working conditions, has been accompanied by the feminization of poverty. In the global South, public sectors are no longer a source of guaranteed employment for graduates, and the private sector does not necessarily offer benefits to workers, such as paid maternity leaves for women workers. This state of affairs has been decried by trade unions but also by a growing number of non-governmental or civil society organizations, including numerous women’s groups and transnational feminist networks. Notions of “the social rights of citizenship”, “economic citizenship”, and “rights-based development” have been revived by both activist groups and scholars.  The panel will examine the prospects for women’s social rights and economic citizenship in the paradoxical context of an untoward global environment on the one hand, and the expansion of international conventions and norms of human rights, on the other.

Session 16: The remaking of the Southern Africa region:  The role of post-Apartheid South African capital
Chair: Darlene Miller, Rhodes University/Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa, dmiller@hsrc.ac.za
Public perceptions of South African capital’s post-Apartheid expansion have ranged from positive to positively hostile. South African capital has played a powerful historical role in the uneven development of Southern Africa, producing a regional geometry of power that placed the South African economy at the region’s centre. South African corporations have been pivotal in regional accumulation processes and the making of post-Apartheid regionalism.  This panel will explore the regional and continental implications of South Africa’s post-Apartheid expansion in Africa, focusing on both the theoretical and political-economic implications of this expansion in different sectors. In the context of the New African Partnership for Development (NEPAD) and the global economic crisis, internal capital flows within Africa have a crucial impact at the political, economic and social levels, which this panel hopes to address.

Session 17: Practices of globalisation and the crises of the financial sector: Normal corruption, systemic deficiencies and black mail
Chair: Sabine Gensior, Brandenburg Technical University, Germany.  sgensior@tu-cottbus.de
The manifest crisis of the financial sector leads us to a demand for a sociology of financial markets and new analyses of the enterprise sector, i.e. the `real economy`.  This session will invite theoretical and empirical papers analysing: developments, forms of organisation and structures of the financial economy; interactions of the financial system with the real economy; theoretical perspectives on either the systemic character or the action oriented diagnosis of the current crisis of economy and society.

Session 18: Markets and morality
Chair: Aaron Pitluck, Illinois State University, USA, Aaron.Pitluck@ilstu.edu
This panel draws together empirical research on individuals,
organizations, market makers, or regulators in markets acting on
explicitly "ethical," "moral" and other value-oriented goals.  What are
the implications of such research for public sociology and/or social
theory?  Particularly welcome are papers that address the World Congress
sub-themes of Worlds of Difference, Sustainability, or Religion/Power. For details, see http://www.isa-sociology.org/congress2010/priorities.htm

Joint sessions hosted by other RC

Joint session: Science, technology and innovation in cities and regions
Joint session of RC02 Economy and Society and RC23 Sociology of Science and Technology [host committee]

Joint session:  Language and the economy
Joint session of RC02 Economy and Society and RC25 Language and Society [host committee]

Integrative sessions

Integrative session 4: Robust and fragile?: Towards a useful sociology of the economy
Integrative session of Research Committees RC02 Economy and Society, RC16 Sociological Theory and RC17 Sociology of Organization