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Introduction to Political Economy

Introduction to Political Economy

Author: Noaman G. Ali

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Introduction to Political Economy looks at how politics and economics interrelate, but also how political economy can encompass a lot more than just politics and economics. Over the course of this podcast we will also be inviting scholars from different disciplines and perspectives to speak to us about how they approach these kinds of questions. Hosted by Noaman G. Ali, assistant professor of political economy at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan.
21 Episodes
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This second episode of a two-part podcast explores two aspects of the Filipino peasant movement -- organizing around land and farmers rights through the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, and policy advocacy for food sovereignty through the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS). Both organizations are part of the National Democratic Movement whose key goal is full decolonization. The Philippines remains one of the deadliest countries in the world to be an environmental or peasant activist. So what are the aims and objectives of the KMP? What does its organizing practice look like on the ground? How is PCFS distinct from KMP, and how do they approach questions of agro-ecology and degrowth? Importantly, how do rural insurgencies in the Philippines impact their work?I'm joined by JC Mercado, an activist with the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty and an associate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu. Edited by Mhd. Ali.
The Philippines is one of the deadliest countries in the world to be an environmental or land-based activist. Its rural poverty and highly unequal landownership is maintained by military force, while the Philippines' farmers find themselves subordinated to unequal international agricultural trade policies. But the country also has vibrant and militant farmers' movements, the largest being the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) which seeks to address the land inequality, while the associated People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) targetx international agribusiness. What does the agrarian political economy of the Philippines look like? What form does land inequality and agrarian crisis take? What are the gendered dimensions of agrarian problems? And how does the country’s entry into the world markets and invitation of foreign investment under structural adjustment impact its agrarian political economy? I'm joined by JC Mercado, an activist with the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty and an associate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), to discuss these questions. This is the first of a two-part podcast.Music by Zobu. Edited by Mhd. Ali.
While China was "closed" for the most part to the world market under its socialist, planned economy model from 1949 to 1978, most of the population worked in agrarian collectives, which are often blamed for being so unproductive as to have contributed to mass famine. From 1978 on China adopted market-oriented reforms, starting with decollectivizing and turning much agricultural land over to individual households, which in turn is supposed to have led to rapid gains in agricultural productivity. But why did China pursue collectivization in the first place? Was it really responsible for tens of millions of death? What were its achievements? Why then did China adopt decollectivization, and what have been its effects for farmers and workers?I'm joined by Dr. Zhun Xu, author of From Commune to Capitalism: How China’s Peasants Lost Collective Farming and Gained Urban Poverty, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu. Edited by Mhd. Ali.
The farmer's movement in India continues massive protests against the new farm laws introduced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government under prime minister Narendra Modi. Some critics have alleged that the farmers' unions leading the protests represent the "rich farmers" who dominate the countryside, oppressing poor farmers and landless labourers. Labourers, moreover, tend to belong to different castes and face oppression on that axis as well. But because they speak in the name of all rural groups these farmers' unions are often described as "agrarian populist."What kinds of contradictions exist in the countryside between classes and castes? Is the current farmers' movement bridging the interests of different classes and castes? What differences exist among farmers' unions and why?I'm joined by Dr. Shreya Sinha, reviews editor at the Journal of Agrarian Change, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu. Edited by Mhd. Ali.
Scholars of the agrarian question in the 20th century asked how capitalist relations were developing in the countryside, what role peasants (cultivators) played in politics, and what role agricultural production would play in funding industry—the agrarian question would be resolved when a society achieved the structural transformation from agriculture to industry, from a society of peasants to a society of workers. But in most of the world that transition did not quite happen, or at least not in that way. So what does the agrarian question look like in the 21st century? How has neoliberal globalization change the lives and livelihoods of people in the countryside? And what might the future hold?I'm joined by Dr. A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi, author of Hungry for Change: Farmers, Food Justice and the Agrarian Question, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
Peasant movements shaped the conversations and policies that were part of decolonization in much of the Global South, including conversations about land reform and the privileges of landed elites. In post-colonial countries, problems around food availability also pressed ruling elites to pursue strategies of agrarian reform that again reshaped class relations. In Pakistan, this sparked a new round of peasant resistance and radical political movements.I continue my discussion with Dr. Kasim Tirmizey and Shozab Raza around these questions.Music by Zobu.
When capitalist colonialism reshaped the landscape and agrarian relations in South Asia, how did peasants — those who tilled the land — respond? Often, they did so through resistance, including by joining movements that were led by radicals inspired by socialist and communist ideals. What was the link between changing agrarian political economy and social and political movements of the peasantry in colonial West Punjab and North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)?I'm joined by Dr. Kasim Tirmizey and Shozab Raza to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly referred to China as the model for Pakistan to follow in pursuing economic growth and development, echoing development policy discussions about a "China model." From 1949 to 1978 China was "closed" for the most part to the world market under its socialist, planned economy model. But from 1978 on it adopted market-oriented reforms and opened up to the world, inviting foreign capital and becoming the global manufacturing hub. While the resulting economic growth raised incomes, it also sharply increased income inequality and took away many of the benefits that workers and farmers had under the planned economy. Is China's economic growth benefiting the majority of its population? How are workers faring? And does China offer a model that developing countries should or can follow?I'm joined by Dr. Ying Chen, author of several analyses of China's labour markets and struggles, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
Three farm bills passed by the government of prime minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in India have ignited mass protests. In recent days tens and hundreds of millions of farmers and workers have taken to protest in India, especially in its agricultural heartlands of which Punjab is the most prominent. Thousands of Punjabis in diaspora have also taken out protests in Western countries. The Modi government argues its reforms are necessary to resolve India's agrarian crisis. Will these agricultural reforms improve the situation for farmers in India? What exactly do they contain and what impacts will they have on India’s agricultural system?I'm joined by Dr. Ritika Shrimali, author of the forthcoming Corporatization of Indian Agriculture: The Case of Contract Farming in India, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
The mainstream approaches to climate mitigation that revolve around carbon pricing and trading appear to be limited in actually reducing carbon emissions, particularly in the advanced capitalist countries of the Global North. In response, many politicians and groups have called for even more radical approaches. One such approach is the Green New Deal proposed by progressives in the United States. What kinds of impacts would such proposals have on people in the Global South? What are the limits of proposals offered by progressives in the Global North? What kinds of alternatives should people in the Global South be thinking about given our own problems of underdevelopment? And what kinds of knowledges and resources can be draw on to think these things through?I'm joined by Dr. Max Ajl, author of the forthcoming A People's Green New Deal, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
Although many regions of the world are declaring success in reducing the carbon emissions that cause climate change, overall global carbon emissions have gone up and not down. Is it crafty accounting that allows regions like the European Union to say they have reduced emissions? Even if emissions have gone down, they’re nowhere near on course to meet the targets set by global scientists for 2030 so that we can avoid even greater climate catastrophe than we are on course for now. So, what are the mechanisms that these governments are adopting to deal with the issue of carbon mitigation and reducing emissions? What do these mechanisms have to do with markets and trading? And will they ultimately be sufficient?I'm joined by Dr. Kate Ervine, author of Carbon, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
Has the implementation of market-oriented policies of fiscal austerity and free trade (neoliberalism) led to greater prosperity and a dramatic reduction in poverty over the last thirty years? In many countries, a curious phenomenon can be observed of increased per capita incomes but declining per capita calorie intake or food availability. Are people eating less despite earning more? Is there something off in the way we talk about and measure poverty?I'm joined by Dr. Utsa Patnaik, a key contributor to the debate on poverty in India and co-author of A Theory of Imperialism, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
Pakistan was colonized by the British alongside the rest of the South Asian subcontinent. But the basic nature of colonialism is often misunderstood, especially by the former colonizers -- the British were here to extract wealth, and the nature and magnitude of this extraction needs to be understood. What did "the Drain" mean for living standards in colonial South Asia? Did we get anything back for what the British extracted from it? What role did the Drain play in the industrialization of Britain and other British settler-colonies? Did colonial extraction get in the way of our “catching up” with the European countries as far as the Great Divergence is concerned?I'm joined by Dr. Utsa Patnaik, co-author of A Theory of Imperialism, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
By now it's well understood that COVID-19, like many other infectious or communicable diseases, does not hit everyone equally. In Global North countries like the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, as well as in Global South countries like South Africa, working class and low-income communities, who also happen to belong to marginalized racial and ethnic groups, are more impacted than the rich and the white. How should we understand this political economy of health? How does that tie into national and global political economies?I'm joined by Dr. Yogan Pillay, a co-author of the Textbook of Global Health, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
Regardless of what explains unprecedented economic growth in the West, the question remains why the rest of the world did not then catch up. One thing that is easy to underestimate, given how little we are taught about it, is how our “underdeveloped” present is shaped by the colonial past. Colonialism shaped, changed and in some cases implanted new class relations. But there were different colonizers and they did not encounter societies as blank slates. What did pre-colonial political economies look like? How did different colonizers react to different societies? And what kinds of struggles and accommodations shaped new colonial political economies?I spoke to Dr. Imran Ali and Dr. Bridget O'Laughlin and made a mash up. Dr. Imran Ali is author of The Punjab Under Imperialism, 1885-1947 and Dr. Bridget O'Laughlin is author of, among many other articles and pieces, "Proletarianisation, Agency and Changing Rural Livelihoods: Forced Labour and Resistance in Colonial Mozambique."Music by Zobu.
Why are some countries rich, while others are poor? How did we get from a world of "surprising resemblances" to one where Europe pulled ahead while other major regions seem to have gotten left behind? Previously we discussed the role of culture and institutions in these transitions. But some scholars look more closely to the category of capitalism as a specific way in which production and consumption is organized, and especially its drive for profit-maximization. What does capitalism have to do with industrialization and modern economic growth? Why did these happen in England and not elsewhere?I'm joined by Dr. Shami Ghosh, author of King’s Sagas and Norwegian History: Problems and Perspectives, and Writing the Barbarian Past: Studies in Early Medieval Historical Narrative, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
Why are some countries rich, while other countries are poor? It wasn't always the way it is now. For centuries the Middle East was doing better than Europe economically (among other things), and South Asia and China were in their own ways even worth considering as centres of the world economy up to the 1700s. Around this time most regions of the world appear to have converged on similar levels of living standards by some measures, but that changed very quickly. Why did Europe pull ahead while the rest did not? Some explanations point to culture and religion. Others point to institutions (the laws, policies, and rules of the game in general) that Europe might have had and others did not. Are they related?I'm joined by Dr. Jared Rubin, author of Rulers, Religion and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
How does labour get reproduced? When a worker comes home tired and hungry, how does that worker then get ready for the next day or next thing? Feminist economists have long pointed to the socially reproductive labour -- such as cooking, cleaning, and emotion labour -- that women do in the household. Is there a relationship between that kind of social reproductive labour that women do and the kind of domestic violence or abuse that they face? And what does it look like when you spread that across that urban and rural divide? What is women’s role in the political economy?I'm joined by Dr. Priti Ramamurthy, to discuss her forthcoming paper co-authored with Vinay Gidwani, “The Gender of Value: Punctuated Violence and the Labor of Care.”Music by Zobu.
How does a virus like SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, spread so rapidly and widely? A world that is increasingly connected through trade and travel has a lot to do with it. But a lot of these connections have to do global networks of production -- the commodities we buy and sell are actually produced in many countries before being finished in one. What do these global commodity chains have to do with the transmission of viruses like COVID-19? Why does production of commodities take this global or globalized form? What does this tell us about the nature of the world economy we live in, and is it good for countries of the Global South?I'm joined by Dr. Intan Suwandi, author of Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism, to discuss these questions.Music by Zobu.
Where do new diseases like COVID-19 come from? How do they jump from wild animals to humans? I look at the work of economic geographer Mike Davis and evolutionary biologist and epidemiologist Rob Wallace, who argue that the way we produce our food, and particularly livestock, under the logic of industrial capitalism, has a lot to do with it.Music by Zobu.
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