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 Marxist and Institutionalist theories. 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.

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 the PERG Summer Seminars, 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.

PERG members

Dr Gavin Capps

Dr Gavin Capps is a senior lecturer in Economics. His research interests are in natural resource extraction and development, with special reference to the South African platinum mining industry and the new political economies of ‘tribal' land and authority that have crystallised around it. He is also interested in contending theories of the capitalist economy, agrarian change, colonialism and world development, and approach these issues from a Marxist perspective that pays particular attention to questions of historical specificity and geographical variegation. He was awarded the Bernstein and Byres Prize for best article in the Journal of Agrarian Change for his innovative piece on tribal landed property in contemporary Africa.

Dr Simon Choat

Dr Simon Choat is a senior lecturer in Politics and International Relations. He joined Kingston in 2010, having previously taught at the University of Reading and Queen Mary, University of London, from where he received his PhD. His research interests centre on political theory, with a special emphasis on Marx and Marxism in relation to post-Structuralism. He has published numerous articles in international peer-refereed journals including Capital and Class, New Political Science and Political Studies. Simon is the author of two monographs: Marx Through Post-Structuralism: Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze (2010) and Marx's 'Grundrisse': A Reader's Guide (2016).

Dr Andrew Higginbottom

Dr Andrew Higginbottom is associate professor in Politics and International Relations with research interests in Marxism, Development Theories and Policies, and Imperialism. He has published journal articles on the structure and essence of Marx's Capital 1, on imperialist rent and on foreign investment in Latin America and South Africa from the dependency perspective. His current research projects are a dialogue with Capital concerning the theorisation of US cotton slavery and British industrial capitalism; and an exploration of Marini's concept of labour super-exploitation and Marx's theory of surplus-value. Andy is an international solidarity campaigner as well as an academic, he is active in support of social movements in Colombia, South Africa and the Eelam Tamils.

Dr Rex McKenzie

Dr Rex McKenzie is a senior lecturer in economics. His approach to research is influenced by different social and economic ideas, including Political Economy, International Political Economy, Economic Geography, Economic Sociology, History of Economic Thought and Development Economics. Previously he has conducted research on Industrial Policy in South Africa, and the Political Economy of Africa, Latin America and the English-speaking Caribbean. His current research focuses on the Offshore World, Real Estate in Contemporary Capitalism, Global Wealth Chains and Social Network Analysis. In addition he has an ongoing interest in the use of qualitative research methods in economics.

Dr Amanda Latimer

Dr Amanda Latimer is a senior lecturer at the Politics department whose work focuses on transnational labour and social movements against neoliberal free trade and investment agreements, and current debates around underdevelopment and imperialism.

Dr Richard van den Berg

Dr Richard van den Berg is associate professor at Kingston Business School. He joined Kingston University in 2002 and specialises in the history of economic thought, in particular on economic thought of France and Britain in the 18th century. His work is widely published including in the European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, History of Political Economy, Cahiers d'Economie Politique and Économies et Sociétes.

Dr Christina Wolf

Dr Christina Wolf is a senior lecturer in economics and works on structural transformation and industrial policy in sub-Saharan Africa, combining insights from post-Keynesian economics, theories of industrial relations and the firm and political economy. Her research advances the concepts of demand-led structural transformation and domestic market formation and explores how accumulation processes are shaped and constrained by the growth of domestic consumer and intersectoral demand. Christina obtained a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies and has published in African Affairs and the Third World Quarterly.

PhD students

Current and former PhD students

Collin Constantine gained his PhD in economics at Kingston University in 2020. He works on economic development and growth, international economics, inequality, political economy, public economics, open economy macroeconomics and Caribbean economic history. After obtaining his PhD, he obtained a post as College Lecturer and Official Fellow of Economics at Girton College, University of Cambridge. He is the coordinator of INET's Young Scholars Initiative's Economic Development working group and a member of PERG.

Tim Gooding gained his PhD from Kingston University, in which he investigated the foundational emergent behaviour of trade. Key experimental findings include a base line exponential inequality of the distribution of money (0.5 Gini coefficient), an inverse relationship between required agent computation (such as consumer choice) and system efficiency, and strong evidence suggesting long-term prices in closed economic trade systems (such as the global economy) are not linked to supply and demand. Additional interests include evolutionary forces shaping human society, especially in the form of evolutionary fitness tests.

Karsten Köhler gained his PhD in economics at Kingston University. in 2019 and is now a lecturer at King's College. His PhD dissertation was on boom-bust cycles and exchange rate policy in emerging market economies. Further research interests comprise open economy macroeconomics, financial and business cycles in advanced and emerging market economies, and the effect of financialisation on income distribution. Recent publications: Kohler, Karsten (2017) 'Currency devaluations, aggregate demand, and debt dynamics in economies with foreign currency liabilities', Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, 40(4), 487-511.

Christian Koutny is a PhD student in economics and part of PERG at Kingston University. He received a BSc in economics from the WU Vienna and a MA in Political Economy from Kingston University, for which he received a scholarship from the Chamber of Labour Vienna. At the moment he receives the Kingston University Research Studentship and examines financial (Minskian) effects on the real economy (investment, business cycle). He is also a member of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) Young Academics Network (YAN), where he is working on the economic aspects of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Bazil Sansom is an economist, policy analyst and strategist. He obtained he PhD in Economics in 2020. His doctoral research has focused on characterising and explaining housing market dynamics, and the macro/housing/finance nexus. Previously he has led work for government on local public services and finance, housing, and on strategy, business planning and change management; he has also taken the analytical lead for asset portfolios in a variety of different industries as a research and credit analyst for commercial banking. His research interests include non-stationary time series analysis, wavelets based time-frequency methods, graph theory, empirical and analytical methods in nonlinear dynamics, and complex systems. Other academic specialisations and interests include behavioural economics and experimental methodologies and their application for policy.

Rafael Wildauer received his PhD from Kingston in 2017, and is now working at the University of Greenwich. His research interests are the determinants of household debt, particularly the role played by personal income inequality and the evolution of income and wealth inequality over time in general. Before coming to Kingston, Rafael gained research experience during an internship at the Macroeconomic Policy Institute in Düsseldorf, Germany, contributing to a meta-analysis of fiscal multipliers among other projects. He also worked as a research assistant at the University of Linz on statistical correction of the sample bias in wealth survey data.

Research topics

Foundations, traditions, and controversies in political economy

Political economy is broader in scope than conventional economics and transgresses the disciplinary boundaries of economics. Consequently, 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, race, gender, 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, French and British contributions to economic theory in the 18th century as well as the degree to which political and economic theories are dominated by white, male thinkers and omit issues of colonialism, race and gender.

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

  • Choat, Simon (2021, forthcoming) Reconsidering Political Thinkers forthcoming. Oxford University Press
  • Choat, Simon (2020) Decolonising the political theory curriculum. Politics
  • Van den Berg, Richard (2019) Circular reasoning : Forbonnais and the intricate history of circular flow analysis in the 1750s. European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 26(6), pp. 1107-1152
  • Choat, Simon (2016) Marx's 'Grundrisse': A Reader's Guide (London: Bloomsbury)
  • 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
  • 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
  • Stockhammer, Engelbert (2007), Uncertainty, class and power. International Journal of Political Economy 35 (4), 29-45

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, Churchill, Jennifer and Guevara, Diego (2020) Variegated financialization and pension fund asset demand: the case of Colombia and Perú. Socio-Economic Review
  • Bonizzi, Bruno, and Jennifer Churchill, (2017), 'Pension Funds and Financialisation in the European Union'. Revista de Economia Mundial 46.
  • Stockhammer, E, Wildauer, R, (2016), Debt-driven growth? Wealth, distribution and demand in OECD countriesCambridge Journal of Economics: 40(6):1609-1634
  • 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, Engelbert, (2008), Stylized facts on the finance-dominated accumulation regime. Competition and Change 12, 2: 189-207
  • Stockhammer, Engelbert, (2004), Financialisation and the slowdown of accumulation. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 28(5), pp. 719-741

Inequality, neoliberalism and capitalism

Political economy approaches provide a useful perspective for placing capitalism in a historical and institutional context and for  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. PERG researchers explore how to understand neoliberalism from a theoretical point of view and the consequences of neoliberalism for urban inequality, housing and homelessness.

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

  • Mckenzie, Rex and Atkinson, Rowland (2020) Anchoring capital in place: the grounded impact of international wealth chains on housing markets in London. Urban Studies, 57(1), pp. 21-38.
  • Choat, Simon (2019) The iron cage of enterprise or the restoration of class power? Approaches to understanding neoliberalism. Political Studies Review, 17(4), pp. 416-427
  • 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
  • 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 crisisDevelopment and Change 48(1): 3-27.
  • 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.

Political economy of development: Imperialism, extractivism and structural change

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 focused on the role of natural resource extraction and the role of Britain-based multinationals in development, relations of dependency and the super-exploitation of labour, structural change and industrial policy in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Beinard, W, Kingwill, R and G Capps (eds) (2021), Land, Law and Chiefs in Rural South Africa: Contested histories and current struggles, Wits University Press
  • Itaman, Richard, and Christina Wolf (2021 forthcoming), "Industrial Policy and Monopoly Capitalism in Nigeria: Lessons from the Dangote Business Conglomerate." Development and Change
  • Capps, Gavin (2018) Custom and Exploitation: Rethinking the Origins of the Modern African Chieftaincy in the Political Economy of Colonialism, Journal of Peasant Studies 45:5/6 969-993.
  • 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.
  • Capps, Gavin (2016) Tribal-landed Property: The Value of the Chieftaincy in Contemporary Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change 16:3, pp. 452-477.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.

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:

Wealth chain project

Dr Rex McKenzie

Project outline

This project investigates offshore wealth investment and its effects on wealth distribution and urban life in UK cities. It is an interdisciplinary project that includes, political economists, urban sociologists, cultural political economists, econometricians, complex systems specialists and civil society activists. The project is the result of a competitive bidding process and is a Trust for London funded research project that combines open ended, semi-structured interviews with HM Land Registry data on foreign ownership and a unique empty homes data set to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between property investment coming from offshore tax havens and socio-economic inequality in London.

Research outputs

The first research output was published in 2020 in Urban Studies:

  • McKenzie, Rex and Atkinson, Rowland (2020) Anchoring capital in place : the grounded impact of international wealth chains on housing markets in London. Urban Studies, 57(1), pp. 21-38

Decolonising politics and economics curricula

Dr Simon Choat and Dr Christina Wolf

Project outline

This project has received faculty funding and investigates the degree to which UK higher education curricula in politics and economics are dominated by white, male thinkers and omit issues of race, class, gender and colonialism. The project introduces a comparative perspective, linking up economics and politics research on the topic of diversification of curricula. It is structured around three main research questions:

  1. To what extent do UK undergraduate politics and economics programmes include women, non-white or non-Western thinkers and engage with issues of colonialism, race and gender?
  2. What are the causal factors that perpetuate unbalanced colonialised curricula and to what extent do these have common roots in both politics and economics?
  3. What are the effects of such unbalanced curricula on students, especially in courses with a high share of BAME students such as Kingston.

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

Political Economy Research Group events

The Political Economy Research Group (PERG) at Kingston University explores the dynamics of accumulation, distribution, and conflict in its new online summer seminars. Join us and our great line-up of speakers for our live web events!

Past events

In 2020, the PERG summer seminars explored the dynamics of accumulation, distribution, and conflict. In 2020, we also hosted Dr. Scott Carter in a seminar on the "Intellectual and archival legacy of Piero Sraffa", 14th February 2020.

Wherein lies the value of land?

Incommensurable languages of value and petro-geographies: land-use, decision-making and conflict in south-western Ghana.

  • From: Friday 3 July 2020
  • Speaker: William Otchere-Darko (University of Milano Bicocca) and Jesse S. Ovadia (University of Windsor, Canada)
  • Moderator: Christina Wolf (Kingston University, London)

Whose city now?

Alpha city: how London was captured by the super-rich

  • From: 10 July 2020
  • Speaker: Rowland Atkinson (University of Sheffield)
  • Moderator: Rex McKenzie (Kingston University, London)

What constrains and enhances domestic agency?

Ambiguity in international finance and the spread of financial norms: the localisation of financial inclusion in Kenya and Nigeria

  • From: 17 July 2020
  • Speaker: Florence Dafe (Technical University of Munich)
  • Moderator: Christina Wolf (Kingston University, London)

How do pension funds shape financial systems?

Minsky, critical macro-finance and pension funds

  • From: 24 July 2020
  • Speaker: Bruno Bonizzi (University of Hertfordshire)
  • Moderator: Jennifer Churchill (Kingston University, London)

Who gets what in global value chains?

Entanglements of value and wealth in the global tuna industry: who gets what, where and how in the geographical transfer of value?

  • From: 31 July 2020
  • Speaker: Liam Campling (Queen Mary University of London)
  • Moderator: Gavin Capps (Kingston University, London)

Can dependency theory explain the persistence of uneven development?

Beyond the stereotype: restating the relevance of the dependency research programme

  • From: 7 August 2020
  • Speaker: Ingrid H. Kvangraven (University of York)
  • Moderator: Rex McKenzie (Kingston University, London)

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 above).

Partner institutions

Post-Keynesian Economics Study Group

The Post-Keynesian Economics Society (PKES) was established in 2017 out of the Post-Keynesian Study group (PKSG), itself founded in 1988 by Philip Arestis and Victoria Chick with the support of the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The purpose of PKES is to encourage collaboration among scholars and students of Post Keynesian economics, defined broadly as a theoretical approach that draws upon the work of Keynes, Kalecki, Joan Robinson, Kaldor, Kahn and Sraffa. This approach is distinguished by the central role of the principle of effective demand (that demand matters in the long run) and an insistence that history, social structure and institutional practice be embodied in its theory and reflected in its policy recommendations.

Research on Money and Finance (RMF)

A network of political economists that have a track record in researching money and finance. It aims to generate analytical work on the development of the monetary and the financial system in recent years. A further aim is to produce synthetic work on the transformation of the capitalist economy, the rise of financialisation and the resulting intensification of crises. RMF intends its work to influence public debate on money and finance. Engelbert Stockhammer and Iren Levina are members of the RMF network.

Political Economy Research Institute (PERI)

Based at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, promoting human and ecological well-being through original research. Since its founding, PERI has become a leading source of research and policy initiatives on issues of globalisation, unemployment, financial market instability, central bank policy, living wages and decent work, and the economics of peace, development, and the environment. Engelbert Stockhammer is a research associate at PERI.

European Association of Evolutionary Political Economy (EAEPE)

EAEPE originates from a meeting at a conference in Grim's Dyke, London, on 29 June 1988. The main purpose in forming the association was to promote evolutionary, dynamic and realistic approaches to economic theory and policy. Instead of the over-formalistic and often empty theorising of orthodox economics, the aim was to bring together the ideas of a number of theorists and theoretical traditions, and to help to develop a more realistic and adequate approach to theory and policy. Engelbert Stockhammer is the research area coordinator at EAEPE for research area [H] Effective Demand, Income Distribution and Finance. 

Forum for Macroeconomics and Macroeconomic Policies (FMM)

The Forum for Macroeconomics and Macroeconomic Policies (FMM) aims to be both a platform for discussions about economic theory as well as a forum for economic policy debates. In particular, the forum seeks to promote an exchange between competing theoretical paradigms.

International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy (IIPPE)

The International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy (IIPPE) was founded in 2006 with the aim of promoting political economy in and of itself but also through critical and constructive engagement with mainstream economics, heterodox alternatives, interdisciplinarity, and activism understood broadly as ranging across formulating progressive policy through to support for progressive movements.

INET-YSI

The YSI Economic Development Working Group brings together young scholars from a variety of disciplines and countries to discuss real challenges of economic development across the world. In this working group, we create a wide-ranging conversation within the YSI community, forming a bridge between a range of social science disciplines and the regional working groups, by exploring development through a variety of approaches. Collin Constantine is a coordinator of INET's Young Scholars Initiative's Economic Development working group. He organises webinars and conferences and is a co-investigator for the research cluster on Productive Structures, Institutions and Distribution.