Publication of David Gordon Memorial Lecture
David Gordon (1944–1996) was Professor of Economics at the New School for Social Research and Director of the Center for Economic Policy Analysis. His contributions focused mainly on poverty, discrimination, segmented labor markets, and long-run capitalist development. Sam Bowles and Tom Weisskopf wrote a tribute to David Gordon, published in the RRPE in March 1999, 31(1). In memory and honor of David Gordon, The David Gordon Memorial Lecture is presented annually at the Allied Social Science Association meetings by an economist whose work follows in the tradition of his contributions. Not all David Gordon Memorial Lectures have been published in RRPE, but those that have been are listed here.
Current Published Lecture
Unbound: Releasing Inequality’s Grip on Our Economy by Heather Boushey (Washington Center for Equitable Growth), December 2020, 52(4): 597–609. There is a transformation now underway in economics that is thoroughly upending the con- ventional wisdom about how our nation can deliver strong, stable, and broadly shared eco- nomic growth. A new generation of scholars, informed by new data and sources of empirical evidence, is challenging long-held assumptions about how the economy works and the extent to which those workings can be understood in isolation from the larger dynamics of the rest of society. Real-world observations are undermining the claim that markets left to their own devices reliably deliver socially beneficial outcomes. All this is paving the way for a major shift. The new framework starts from the understanding—grounded in the evidence—of the ways that inequality obstructs, subverts, and distorts economic growth. While Adam Smith’s famous invisible hand pushes the economy toward broadly beneficial outcomes, economic inequality acts as bind, thwarting the idealized market processes as it transforms into social and politi- cal power. A rising tide cannot lift all boats when some cannot even get launched and others pushed off course and deprived of navigation tools, founder on the rocks. Inequality constricts economic growth. This framework exposes dynamics more complex than the conventional economic wisdom of the past can explain. While it is tempting to embrace the simple tale that a rising tide lifts all boats, we need to make sense of a large body of research literature, much of which has focused not directly on the question of how inequality affects economic growth but rather on how inequality affects mechanisms that in turn drive investment and productivity. The reasons that economic benefits are not flowing to families may be disparate, but there are many common themes—which, once fully traced, can reveal new patterns to guide better economic thinking and policymaking.
Previous Published Lectures
Free Markets and the Decline of Democracy by John Weeks (SOAS, University of London), December 2018, 50(4): 637–648. Well into the twenty-first century, it is difficult to find a major country in which democratic institutions are not under stress, in many cases under aggressive attack. In the United States, the government has fallen under the control of a profoundly antidemocratic regime. In Europe, long- standing authoritarian tendencies have enjoyed a quantum leap under the neoliberal austerity regime fostered by the German government with the cover of the European Commission. This paper discusses the source of this near universal twenty-first-century tendency to authoritarianism.
Domestic Outsourcing, Rent Seeking, and Increasing Inequality by Eileen Appelbaum (Center for Economic and Policy Research), December 2017, 49(4): 513–528. This paper argues that an important mechanism linking increasing rents and the rising earnings’ inequality among workers with similar skills is the increase in domestic outsourcing and the growth of networked forms of production. This has multiplied contractual relationships and legal claims to profit and rents that reflect interfirm power relations. Firms with the greatest clout are able to claim the largest share of the rents; the weakest struggle to remain viable.
The Upward Redistribution of Income: Are Rents the Story? by Dean Baker (Center for Economic and Policy Research), December 2016, 48(4): 529–43. This paper examines the extent to which the growth in rents can explain the upward redistribution in income since 1980. It examines and provides preliminary estimates for the growth of rents in four main areas: increased patent and copyright rents, the growth of the financial sector, the increase in CEO pay due to the failure of the corporate governance, and the increase in pay for the most highly paid professionals due to protectionist barriers.
Climate, Inequality, and the Need for Reframing Climate Policy by Juliet Schor (Boston College), December 2015, 47(4): 525–536. Humans are on the precipice of dangerous climate change. In this lecture, I discuss the importance of inequality in climate solutions and the ways in which the framing of climate change has impeded action to mitigate emissions. I critique the standard formulation of a tradeoff between well–being and environmental protection. I argue for the need to reframe climate action as a positive good and discuss the impact of the Great Recession on climate discourse in the United States. I review recent history on de-coupling and argue for new approaches to climate policy, such as cap-and-dividend and the use of productivity growth to reduce hours of work and by extension emissions.
Reflections on 50 Years of Radical Political Economy by Thomas E. Weisskopf (University of Michigan), December 2014, 46(4): 437–447. I examine first how radical political economy (RPE) has evolved over the last five decades, as the overall political climate in the United States has shifted increasingly to the right. I explore how this political shift, as well as new developments within mainstream economics, have altered the focus of much of RPE and the activities of many of its practitioners. I then offer suggestions to radical political economists as to the future orientation of RPE.
Rethinking Financial Capitalism and the ‘Information’ Economy by Duncan K. Foley (New School for Social Research), September 2013, 45(3): 257–268. This talk examines the popular idea that “economic growth” can continue indefinitely in post-industrial capitalist economies through the shift of labor to “service” sectors, particularly finance and information-based activities, in the light of the classical-Marxian theory of value and the related categories of productive and unproductive labor. As the generally accepted classical theory of land rent exemplifies, many types of income in capitalist economies, including interest, financial fees, speculative trading profits, and intellectual property royalties, arise as parts of the surplus value generated by the exploitation of productive labor appropriated through the assertion of various property rights. The dramatic phenomena of highly profitable “business models” based on network externalities associated with the internet and other information-based technologies do not represent new modes of value production, but modes (in some cases not particularly new) of participation in the pool of surplus value. National income accounting conventions that impute a fictitious output as a counterpart to incomes generated in sectors such as finance, professional and business services, education and health, and government, where there are no market-based measures of output create a distorted and misleading picture of value production and growth in advanced capitalist economies. A clear understanding of the origin of value in the expenditure of productive labor and of surplus value in the exploitation of productive labor is essential to thinking through the problems of post-industrial capitalist growth, distribution, resource conservation, and environmental protection.
The Political Economy of Human Capital by Nancy Folbre (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), September 2012, 44(3): 281–292. In this paper I develop a critique of both standard neoclassical and standard Marxian conceptualizations of human capital that illustrates an important hypothesis of feminist political economy: collective conflicts based on class, gender, and age, as well as other dimensions of collective identity, affect the distribution of the costs of developing human capital.
The 21st Century Crisis: Climate Catastrophe or Socialism by Minqi Li (University of Utah), September 2011, 43(3): 289–301. Under the current trend, the world is on track towards an extreme greenhouse state that threatens to destroy human civilization and nearly all forms of life on Earth. Without an end to economic growth, it is virtually impossible for meaningful climate stabilization to be achieved. However, both capitalist enterprises and states are constantly driven to expand production and consumption. The climate change crisis is but one of several long-term historical trends that are now leading to the structural crisis of capitalism. The resolution of the crisis and the survival of humanity require the building of a fundamentally different social system.
Finance without Financiers: Prospects for Radical Change In Financial Governance by Gerald Epstein (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), September 2010, 42(3): 293–306. Abstract: In response to the financial crisis of 2007–2010, governments in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere have invested billions of dollars in financial institutions to prevent them from going bankrupt and from further disrupting the global economy. Despite these massive public bail-outs, a government and “elite” consensus has emerged that these nationalized or quasi-nationalized financial institutions should be privatized as soon as possible, and that, apart from modest changes in financial regulation, our economies should return to the status quo ante financial structure. I disagree. As the crisis reveals, “financier” dominated finance has a number of devastating flaws: it creates major externalities that contribute to financial and real economic instability; it promotes short-term investment strategies; it contributes to inequality; and it undermines economic efficiency and the achievement of social goals in the real economy. I argue that a better strategy for achieving economic recovery, restructuring, and widely shared, sustainable prosperity is to use public investments in the financial sector to build on the successful post-World War II experiences of publicly oriented financial institutions to create a stronger presence of “finance without financiers.”
Guns and Butter Once Again by William Darity Jr. (Duke University), September 2009, 41(3): 285–290. Prior to the credit collapse in the United States and the visible onset of a profound economic crisis, a crisis of national fiscal priorities already had crystallized over the course of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Between 2001–2008 federal spending on domestic programs and needs had become more restricted than any other area of the federal budget, shrinking as a share of both the budget itself and as a share of overall economic activity…
Radical Economics and Social Change Movements: Strengthening the Links between Academics and Activists by Jim Stanford (Canadian Auto Workers), Summer 2008, 40(3): 205–219. Abstract: The article considers the barriers to closer cooperation between progressive economists and progressive social change movements. The author provides some examples of successful cooperation, but suggests that these are the exception rather than the norm. The article makes five concrete suggestions for each side that would help to strengthen the relationships between them, and engage progressive economists more fully in social change campaigns.
The Future within the Present: Seven Theses for a Robust Twenty-First-Century Socialism by David Laibman (CUNY Graduate School), Summer 2006, 38(3): 305–318. Abstract: To meet today’s challenges, including successful mobilization around people’s most immediate needs, a rigorous and inspiring vision of a new society — socialism — is more necessary than ever. Without creating rigid or utopian schemes, we can affirm and develop some of the most essential elements in that vision: progressive transcendence of the alienating and polarizing content of spontaneous markets; democratic coordination and planning, at all levels from central to decentral; and creative engagement with the vast potentials of modern information technology. This project must also recover and embrace all of the lessons, both positive and negative, of the twentieth-century postcapitalist experience, especially that of the USSR.
Communicating Political Economy by Ann Markusen (University of Minnesota), Summer 2005, 37(3): 269–280. Abstract: Good political economic thought and research often fail to reach intended audiences or motivate the change its creators envision because of communication failure. I present a series of techniques for strengthening the writing and oral dissemination of political economic work, drawing on writing teachers from the political and creative writing spheres. The techniques include developing a powerful voice and freeing it from an internal censor, understanding one’s audience, and working with peer feedback. I argue that learning and using these techniques will not only improve the political impact of our work but strengthen the originality of our academic research and writing. Communicative writing and speaking is not enough, but it is a first crucial step in linking theory and research to effective practice.
Speculations on the Political Economy of War and Empire by Michael Perelman (California State University, Chico), Summer 2004, 36(3): 297–306. Abstract: This article addresses the internal contradictions of American imperialism. By emphasizing imperial adventures and the buildup of the military without paying serious attention to the underlying economic conditions, the United States may have difficulty maintaining its military domination.
Depths Below Depths: The Intensification, Multiplication, and Spread of Capitalism’s Destructive Force from Marx’s Time to Ours by Doug Dowd (San Francisco, CA), Summer 2002, 34(3): 247–266. Abstract: The Marxian analytical framework remains essential for the understanding of contemporary capitalism; however, given the enormous changes 4ince his time, its constitutent elements are not only in need of “updating,” but the relationships between them require important shifts in emphasis. Most especially is that so regarding the relationships between “base and superstructure.” It is the strength of the latter that has enabled capitalism’s ongoing “triumphs,” despite its ever-increasing destructiveness to humanity, society, and nature. There has always been an urgency to our work as radical economists; today’s existing and threatened calamities require us to intensify and integrate our analytical and political efforts, in ways urged by Gramsci long ago.
The ‘Reserve Army of Labor’ and the ‘Natural Rate of Unemployment’: Can Marx, Kalecki, Friedman, and Wall Street All Be Wrong? by Robert Pollin (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Summer 1998, 30(3): 1–13. I was extremely honored when the URPE Steering Committee invited me to give the first annual David Gordon Memorial Lecture at the URPE summer conference. In fact, in preparing for the lecture, I began jotting down some of the reasons why I felt honored. I quickly realized that I could spend my whole allotted time going through that list. But exercising selfrestraint, I will just mention two crucial things. First, as long as I knew David Gordon—and by this I literally mean from the first day I met David as a student in his 1975 New School class on workers’ control until our last conversations—I knew him as a committed URPE worker. I want to emphasize my choice of words. David really did work for URPE. He did lots of work, including lots of the grubby work that is the foundation of any shoestring left organization. Almost all of this work he did quietly but relentlessly. He continued making contrtbutions to URPE even after he became seriously ill. Second, David made fundamental contrtbutions in opening up a new research approach in political economy. It was research that made the best possible use of existing formal empirical techniques to address questions that concerned us on the left. In doing this, David—and others who have followed his approach—have been able to challenge orthodox pretensions on their own terms…
Please visit the SAGE website for additional information about the David Gordon Memorial Lecture.