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Political Economy Research Group (PERG)

PERG is a group of researchers who believe that effective demand, institutions and social conflict are of fundamental importance for the understanding of economic relationships and outcomes. Furthermore economic analysis should be embedded in a pluralist approach, allowing different schools of thought providing a broad basis for scientific progress.

About PERG

The Political Economy Research Group (PERG) takes a political economy approach to analyse the role of effective demand, finance institutions and social conflict in the economy. We start from the premise that economic processes are embedded in social relations that can only be successfully analysed in the context of historical considerations, power relations and social norms. This requires building on insights from history, sociology and other social sciences. This approach enables a better understanding than neoclassical theory based on rational agents, optimization and self-equilibrating markets. PERG advocates a pluralist approach to economics and has notable strengths in Post-Keynesian theory. Research areas include economic crisis and financial instability, financialisation, income inequality, distribution and growth, and economic development. Members have published in journals like Cambridge Journal of Economics, New Political Economy, Environment and Planning A or African Affairs.

PERG maintains strong links to the student community. The research group supports the MA cluster in Political Economy, which is part of the EPOG masters programme (Economic Policy in the Age of Globalisation). This masters degree programme is financially supported by the European Commission and jointly awarded by different partnering intuitions. In addition, four PhD students with scholarships are currently associated with PERG.

Our goals

The aim of PERG is to further research in the area of Political Economy at Kingston University by bringing together active researchers in the field. We organise academic workshops, round tables and provide resources for interested students such as a summer school on Political Economy and an overview of relevant academic journals, associations and newsletters in the heterodox/political economy tradition. Beside of that, PERG has also been instrumental in developing the Kingston MA cluster in Political Economy.

Research topics

Foundations, traditions, and controversies in political economy

Political economy is broader in scope than conventional economics. It transgresses the disciplinary boundaries of economics; it consists of different paradigms. As a consequence, the study of economics' intellectual heritage and history of thought as well as the question what constitutes appropriate methods and units of analysis (individuals, institutions, classes, social norms) are in integral part of research in political economy. PERG research in this area has focused on the foundations of Marxist and Post-Keynesian theory as well as on French and British contributions to economic theory in the 18th century.

A selection of papers indicative of our ongoing work in the area:

  • Choat, Simon (2016) Marx's 'Grundrisse': A Reader's Guide (London: Bloomsbury)
  • Choat, Simon (2016) 'Marxism and anarchism in an age of neoliberal crisis' Capital & Class 40(1): 95-109
  • Stockhammer, E and Ramskogler, P (2008), Post Keynesian economics - how to move forward. Vienna University of Economics and B.A. Department of Economics Working Paper No. 124
  • Stockhammer, Engelbert (2007), Uncertainty, class and power. International Journal of Political Economy 35 (4), 29-45
  • Wells, Julian (2013) 'Of Fat Cats and Fat Tails: From the Financial Crisis to the "New" Probabilistic Marxism' Research in Political Economy 28:197-228, Apr. 2013
  • Van den Berg, Richard (2017) A Judicious and Industrious Compiler. Mapping Postlethwayt's Dictionary of Commerce. European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 24 (6), 1167-1213. ISSN (print) 0967-2567
  • Van den Berg and Steenge, Albert E. (2016) Tableaux and Systems: Early French Contributions to Linear Production Models, Cahiers d'Economie Politique, 71, pp. 11-30. ISSN (print) 0154-8344
  • Van den Berg, Richard (2014) Cantillon on profit and interest: new insights from other versions of his writings. History of Political Economy, 46(4), pp. 609-640. ISSN (print) 0018-2702
  • Van den Berg, Richard (2014) Turgot's Valeurs et Monnaies: our incomplete knowledge of an incomplete manuscript. The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 21(4), pp. 549-582. ISSN (print) 0967-2567

Financial instability and economic crisis

With the bursting of the property bubble and onset of the financial crisis, the world economy has entered the worst crisis since the Great Depression. What are the causes of the crisis? Merely inadequate financial regulation? What are its deeper structural causes? Is it a crisis of neoliberalism? Of financialisation? Who will bear the costs of the crisis?

A selection of papers indicative of our ongoing work in the area:

Political economy of financialisation

Financialisation is a hallmark of the last three decades. The finance-dominated accumulation regime is characterized by mediocre growth performance and a high degree of (financial) fragility. Growth in wage-led demand regimes becomes increasingly driven by debt and property prices. PERG research has contributed to uncovering what the rise in size of the financial sector means for firms' investment behaviour and corporate governance, consumption behaviour, government expenditures and also where financial profits come from. PERG research has also focussed on how asset-driven wealth accumulation affects the provision of welfare services, with a specific focus on pensions, whose demand for assets continuously sparks growth and innovation in financial markets thereby generating potential for systemic risk and instability.

A selection of papers indicative of our ongoing work in the area:

  • Bonizzi, Bruno, and Jennifer Churchill, (2017), 'Pension Funds and Financialisation in the European Union'. Revista de Economia Mundial 46.
  • Bonizzi, Bruno, and Jennifer Churchill, (2018), forthcoming. 'Financialisation of Pensions in Europe: Gendered Consequences'. Finance and Society.
  • Stockhammer, Engelbert, (2011), Financialization and the Global Economy. In: Gerald Epstein and Martin H. Wolfson (eds): The Political Economy of Financial Crises (Oxford University Press)
  • Stockhammer, E, Wildauer, R, (2016), Debt-driven growth? Wealth, distribution and demand in OECD countries. Cambridge Journal of Economics: 40(6):1609-1634
  • Stockhammer, Engelbert, (2004), Financialisation and the slowdown of accumulation. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 28(5), pp. 719-741
  • Stockhammer, Engelbert, (2008), Stylized facts on the finance-dominated accumulation regime. Competition and Change 12, 2: 189-207

Inequality, neoliberalism and capitalism

Political economy approaches provide a useful perspective for placing capitalism in a historical and institutional context and tracing its consequences for workers. Capitalism takes different forms at different times. Neoliberalism, its new form since the 1980s, has come with a marketization of social relations, privatisation of public services, financialisation, a rollback of labour rights and rising inequality as its hall marks.

A selection of papers indicative of our ongoing work in the area:

  • Choat, Simon (2018) 'Everything for Sale? Neoliberalism and the Limits of Michael Sandel's Philosophical Critique of Markets' New Political Science 40(1): 1-14
  • Choat, Simon (2017) 'Tuition fees and the neoliberal university: Responding to the 2017 Higher Education and Research Act' Renewal 25(3-4): 138-144
  • McKenzie, Rex A (2013) 'Financialisation and Labour: What Does Marikana Tell Us about Inequality in South Africa?' Working Paper No. 1305. New York: New School for Social Research, Department of Economics. http://www.economicpolicyresearch.org/econ/2013/NSSR_WP_052013.pdf.
  • Stockhammer, E (2017) Determinants of the wage share. A panel analysis of advanced and developing economies. British Journal of Industrial Relations 55, 1: 3-33 DOI:10.1111/bjir.12165
  • Stockhammer, E (2016) Neoliberal growth models, monetary union and the Euro Crisis. A post-Keynesian perspective. New Political Economy 21 (4): 365-79
  • Goda, T, Onaran, Ö, Stockhammer, E (2016) Income inequality and wealth concentration in the recent crisis. Development and Change 48(1): 3-27.
  • Onaran, Ö and Stockhammer, Engelbert (2008), The effect of FDI and foreign trade on wages in the Central and Eastern European Countries in the post-transition era: A sectoral analysis. Structural Change and Economic Dynamics. 19 (1), 66-80

Demand regimes: income distribution, effective demand and employment

Political economy approaches to macroeconomics highlight the central role of social conflicts and the complex social determinants of capital investment decisions in the growth process. The analysis builds on the work of Marx, Keynes, and Kalecki and tries to apply these theories to contemporary issues: What are the effects of changes in income distribution on aggregate demand? What are the reasons behind long-term trends in unemployment? And what are appropriate policies to reduce it?

A selection of papers indicative of our ongoing work in the area:

  • Stockhammer, E, Stehrer, R (2011), Goodwin or Kalecki in demand? Functional income distribution and aggregate demand in the short run, Review of Radical Political Economics forthcoming
  • Stockhammer, E, Onaran, O, (2013), Wage-led growth: theory, evidence, policy. Review of Keynesian Economics 1, 1: 61-78
  • Lavoie, M, Stockhammer, E, (2013), Wage-led growth. An Equitable Strategy for Economic Recovery, London: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Stockhammer, Engelbert, Onaran, Ozlem and Ederer, Stefan (2009), Functional income distribution and aggregate demand in the Euro area, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 33(1), pp. 139-159. ISSN (print) 0309-166X
  • Stockhammer, Engelbert (2008), Is the NAIRU a Monetarist, New Keynesian, Post Keynesian or Marxist theory? Metroeconomica 59 (4), 479-510

Political economy of development: Between financialisation and emerging powers

To uncover the causes of development and the factors perpetuating underdevelopment, it is important to critically examine the causal relationships between systemic factors, acting on a global scale, and factors specific to individual economies and societies. Extrapolation should be consistent both ways, ie. research should be able to explain how country-specific dynamics are influenced by systemic factors and unequal exchange while leaving room to explain why and how systemic pressures are mediated in a particular way domestically. PERG research in this area has focussed on the dynamics of imperialism, underdevelopment and unequal exchange and scrutinised recent reconfigurations in global capitalist dynamics, such as neoliberalism, Britain based multinationals and extractivism, financialisation or the emergence of China, for the world's poorest economies.

  • Cömert, Hassan, and Rex A. McKenzie. (2016), The Global South after the Crisis Growth, Inequality and Development in the Aftermath of the Great Recession. Cheltenham (UK) and Northampton (Mass.): Edward Elgar.
  • McKenzie, Rex A. (2013), 'Financialisation and Labour: What Does Marikana Tell Us about Inequality in South Africa?' Working Paper No. 1305. New York: New School for Social Research, Department of Economics. http://www.economicpolicyresearch.org/econ/2013/NSSR_WP_052013.pdf.
  • McKenzie, Rex A. (2016), 'The Africa Rising Narrative - Whither Development?' Kingston University Economics Discussion Papers No. 2016-9. Kingston upon Thames: Kingston University. http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/35345/1/2016_009.pdf.
  • McKenzie, Rex A. (2017), 'Dependency and Hegemony in Neoliberal South Africa'. Kingston University Economics Discussion Papers No. 2014-4. Kingston upon Thames: Kingston University. http://staffnet.kingston.ac.uk/~ku33681/RePEc/kin/papers/2017_004.pdf.
  • Ovadia, Jesse Salah, and Christina Wolf. (2017), 'Studying the Developmental State: Theory and Method in Research on Industrial Policy and State-Led Development in Africa'. Third World Quarterly, September, 1-21.
  • Wolf, Christina. (2017), 'Industrialization in Times of China: Domestic-Market Formation in Angola'. African Affairs 116 (464): 435-61.
  • Higginbottom, Andy. (2016), 'Liberation in South Africa? Anti-Apartheid, Anti-Capitalism and Anti-Imperialism' in Ness, Immanuel and Cope, Zak (eds.) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism: 544-569
  • Higginbottom, Andy. (2014), '"Imperialist rent" in practice and theory'. Globalizations 11 (1): 23-33
  • Higginbottom, Andy. (2013), 'Foreign Investment in Latin America: Dependency Revisited'. Latin American Perspectives. 40 (3): 184-206

Research projects

Apart from publications in scientific journals, there are also bigger projects spanning over several years. The most recent example is the project "Rising Inequality as a Structural Cause of the Financial and Economic Crisis" funded by the Institute for New Economic Thinking. For more information on particular projects see below:

Rising inequality as a structural cause of the financial and economic crisis (2013-16)

Professor Engelbert Stockhammer
Funded by the Institute of New Economic Thinking

The financial crisis that began in summer 2007 has since turned into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Its causes are usually sought in the malfunctioning of the financial sector leading to a real estate bubble and rapidly rising household debt. Among the macroeconomic factors that have attracted attention international imbalances have featured prominently: capital inflows, in particular from Asian countries that wanted to accumulate reserves, provided ample liquidity for this process. While all these financial mechanisms are indeed important, this project argues that, they may only give half of the picture. The project will investigate the hypothesis that rising inequality has contributed to the macroeconomic imbalances that erupted in the present crisis.

This project, financed by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, proposes to interpret the present crisis as an outcome of the interaction of the effects of financialization with the effects of rising inequality. We thus do not deny the importance of financial factors, but argue that they have to be seen in conjunction with increasing inequality. A dramatic shift in income distribution in all OECD economies has been one of the major socio-economic changes since the early 1980s. This has taken different forms in different countries. In the Anglo-Saxon countries a polarisation of personal income distribution has occurred. In the continental European countries it is functional rather than personal income distribution that has shifted dramatically. These changes in income distribution are historically extraordinary. They mark a clear break with the relatively egalitarian income distribution of post-war capitalism. In the USA income inequality is at its most extreme for a century! Given these dramatic changes one would expect macroeconomic effects.

Project outline

The project furthers our understanding of how rising inequality has contributed to the macroeconomic imbalances that erupted in the present crisis. This is done based on a Kaleckian macroeconomic model. We suggest that the present crisis should be understood as an outcome of the interaction of the process of financialization with the effects of the polarization of income distribution. The project will explore three channels through which rising inequality has contributed to the crisis.

  • Channel 1: The decline in the wage share has a negative effect on domestic demand and has thus contributed to stagnation tendencies.
  • Channel 2: The deregulation of international capital flows has loosened the balance of payments constraints for individual countries and has thus allowed the emergence of two growth models: one group of countries has relied on debt-led consumption growth-typically implying capital inflows; another group has relied on net exports growth, which implies capital outflows.
  • Channel 3: Rising inequality, in particular stagnant wage growth, has contributed to rising household indebtedness in the USA.

Outputs

New Perspectives on Economic Growth: The Potentials of Wage-Led Growth

Project commissioned by the International Labour Office (ILO) The wage-led growth strategy aims at an economic regime where real wage growth leads to increased demand and technological progress and thereby provides the foundation for a sustainable growth process. But what determines wage growth or changes in income distribution in the first place? What have been the causes for the shift of income distribution at the expense of labour in advanced economies in the past three decades? How can wage growth be restored? These are the questions that motivate this project. The project reports form the background for a substantial part of the ILO's Global Wage Report 2012/13.

  • Lavoie and Stockhammer (2012) argue that the polarization of income distribution and the decline in the wage share play an important role in the generation of unbalanced and fragile growth in the neoliberal era. The authors examine the possibility of, a wage-led growth strategy, which is likely to generate a much more stable growth regime for the future.
  • Stockhammer (2013) investigates the relative impact of financialisation, globalisation, welfare state retrenchment and technological change on functional income distribution. By means of a panel analysis covering up to 71 countries from 1970 to 2007. He find strong negative effects of financialisation as well as negative effects of welfare state retrenchment and globalisation, but only a small contribution of technological change.
  • Onaran and Galanis (2012) estimate the effects of a change in the wage share on growth in the G20 countries using a post-Keynesian/post-Kaleckian model, analyses the interactions among different economies, and calculates the global multiplier effects of a simultaneous decline in the wage share.
  • Storm and Naastepad (2012) argue that higher real wages provide macroeconomic benefits in terms of increased demand (if the economy is wage-led) and higher labour productivity growth and more rapid technological progress.
  • Van Treeck and Sturn (2012) investigate the macroeconomic effects of increasing personal income inequality in the USA, Germany and China. They argue that reducing inequality in these countries is crucial for overcoming macroeconomic instability and the global and European current account imbalances over the longer term.
  • Hein and Mundt (2012) argue that the severity of the present crisis has to be understood by examining the medium- to long-run developments since the early 1980s: inefficient regulation of financial markets, increasing inequality in the distribution of income and rising imbalances at the global level. The requirements for distribution policies within an expansionary post-crisis economic policy regime, a wage-led growth regime embedded in a Global Keynesian New Deal, are outlined.
  • Lavoie, M, Stockhammer, E. (2012), Wage-led growth: Concept, theories and policies, ILO Working Papers, Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 41
  • Stockhammer, E. (2013), Why have wage shares fallen? A panel analysis of the determinants of functional income distribution. ILO Working Paper, Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 35
  • Stockhammer, E (2017) Determinants of the wage share. A panel analysis of advanced and developing economies. British Journal of Industrial Relations 55, 1: 3-33
  • Onaran, O. and Galanis, G. (2012). Is aggregate demand wage-led or profit-led? National and global effects, ILO Working Papers, Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 40, Geneva.
  • Storm S. and C. W. M. Nastepaad, (2012), Wage-led or Profit-led Supply: Wages, Productivity and Investment, ILO Working Papers Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 36
  • Van Treeck, T., Sturn, S. (2012). Income inequality as a cause of the Great Recession? A survey of current debates, Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 39
  • Hein, E. Mundt, M. (2012). Financialisation and the requirements and potentials for wage-led recovery - a review focussing on the G20. ILO Working Papers, Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 37, Geneva.

Determinants of functional income distribution (2011-12)

Professor Engelbert Stockhammer
Project for the International Labour Organisation (ILO)

The wage-led growth strategy aims at an economic regime where real wage growth leads to increased demand and technological progress and thereby provides the foundation for a sustainable growth process. But what determines wage growth or changes in income distribution in the first place? What have been the causes for the shift of income distribution at the expense of labour in advanced economies in the past three decades? How can wage growth be restored? These are the questions that motivate this project.

The last number of decades has witnessed profound changes in income distribution, with trends being somewhat clearer in advanced economies than in developing countries. There has been a pronounced rise in personal income distribution (OECD 2008); there has been a dramatic rise in top incomes relative to other incomes (in particular in Anglo-Saxon countries; Atkinson et al 2010); and there has been substantial decline in wage shares (in particular in continental Europe and Japan); distributional trends in developing economies are less well documented, but a polarization of income distribution has also taken place. These changes have given rise to a recent literature exploring the causes of these changes, which has highlighted technological change, globalisation, financialisation, and other institutional changes as potential causes. Recent research on the determinants of income distribution is driven by real-world developments rather than theoretical developments.

Research outline

The project aims at identifying the relative contributions of technological change, globalisation and financialisation in explaining changes in functional income distribution in the G20 countries econometrically. It will critically build on the existing literature, in particular on IMF (2007a), IMF (2007b), and EC (2007), and estimate a panel equation where the wage is explained by indicators of technology (e.g. ICT capital stock), globalisation (e.g. trade openness), financialization (e.g. the financial globalization as measure by the stock of foreign liabilities and assets; Lane and Milesi-Ferretti 2006). Given that some theories suggest that the factors will have opposite distributional effects in advanced (capital-rich) and poor (capital-poor) economies, particular attention will be paid to the issue of coefficient heterogeneity.

The project will provide further investigation on the determination of functional income distribution in developed economies, for which more data are available, building on Stockhammer (2009). Here the role of labour market institutions that have played a role in the discussion of unemployment; will be investigated. This is of interest as standard NAIRU models predict that those labour market institutions that affect long-term unemployment also affect the wage share (eg. EC 2007).

Research output

  • Stockhammer, E. (2013) investigates the relative impact of financialisation, globalisation, welfare state retrenchment and technological change on functional income distribution. By means of a panel analysis covering up to 71 countries from 1970 to 2007. He find strong negative effects of financialisation as well as negative effects of welfare state retrenchment and globalisation, but only a small contribution of technological change.
  • Stockhammer, E. (2013), Why have wage shares fallen? A panel analysis of the determinants of functional income distribution. ILO Working Paper, Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 35
  • Stockhammer, E. (2017) Determinants of the wage share. A panel analysis of advanced and developing economies. British Journal of Industrial Relations 55, 1: 3-33

Polarization of income distribution as a cause for the financial and economic crisis (2010)

Professor Engelbert Stockhammer
Project for the Chamber of Labour, Vienna, Austria

The financial crisis that began in summer 2007 has since turned into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Its immediate causes are to be found in the malfunctioning of the financial sector: securitisation of mortgages allowed for a fast growth of credit and lowered credit standards as banks believed they had passed on credit risk; this fuelled a property bubble; statistical models, that turned out to be based on short time samples, were promised to reduce risk by constructing ingenious portfolios; well-paid rating agencies decorated the new assets with triple A ratings; banks shifted credit off balance sheets into structured investment vehicles; finally, capital inflows from Asian countries that wanted to accumulate reserves provided ample liquidity for this process. Obviously the financial system needs to be fundamentally overhauled. While these mechanisms were indeed important, this paper argues, they are only half of the picture. The focus on the flaws in the financial system may hide other causes of the crisis. The polarisation in income distribution, in particular, tends to get glossed over as a potential cause of the crisis. This is not to deny the importance of financial factors. The crisis erupted as financial crisis for good reasons. The underlying accumulation regime had financial expansion as one of its key building blocks. However, what is at stake is more than financial system. This paper will thus argue that the present crisis should be understood as a crisis of neoliberalism. Financial deregulation is one of the components of neoliberalism, the polarization of income distribution is another one; it is their interaction that provided the grounds for the crisis.

Project outline

The project will present empirical evidence on four channels through which the polarisation of income distribution has contributed to imbalances that erupted in the present crisis. Hypothesis 1: The polarisation of income distribution leads, other things equal to a decline in consumption demand as the consumption propensity of low income groups is higher and the consumption propensity of wage income is higher than that out of capital income. Hypothesis 2: External financial liberalisation has loosened balance of payment constraints on individual countries. As a result, two different growth models have emerged: In the Anglo-Saxon countries credit-led consumption growth has become the key variable to drive growth; in another group of countries growth of net export has become the main source of demand growth. Hypothesis 3: the increase of household debt in the USA has to some extent compensated for growth of wage income. Hypothesis 4: The increase in wealth inequality has increased speculation as richer household have a higher propensity to invest in risky assets. The project will evaluate these hypotheses empirically and discuss policy implications.

Project output

PhD applications

PERG encourages PhD applications in Political Economy and heterodox economics with a particular interest in the research topics listed above.

Candidates must be aware of the PhD application guidelines and of the fees involved.

Scholarships and/or bursaries to support research are also available.

Students are encouraged to send draft proposals to prospective supervisors (Please refer to the list of PERG members).

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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