Economics

The Political Economy of Development Economics

The Political Economy of Development Economics: A Historical Perspective,” a supplement to the 2018 volume of History of Political Economy, edited by Michele Alacevich and Mauro Boianovsky, is now available.

hop_50_supp1_2018_coverThe articles in this supplement offer cutting-edge research on the history of development economics through the contributions of both historians of thought working on development economics and development economists with an interest in the history of their discipline.

Through this new scholarship, contributors provide a nuanced and rigorous analysis of the complex nexus between historical contingency, political options, theoretical developments, and institutional expediency that have affected the historical evolution of development economics. At the same time, the unfolding of the actual historical events and debates that have shaped the development of a disciplinary field inevitably opens up new questions that still need to be answered.

Read the introduction, freely available, and browse the table of contents.

The Age of the Applied Economist

hope_49_5The Age of the Applied Economist: The Transformation of Economics since the 1970s,” a supplement to the 2017 volume of History of Political Economy, focuses on how applied work in economics came to be dominated by theory after the 1950s. 

Since the 1970s, economics has changed from a field in which the highest-status activity was abstract theorizing to one where doing good applied work is seen as paramount, whether that applied work consists of analyzing data, solving practical problems or giving policy advice. This volume defends this claim. It is now commonplace to argue that empirical work in economics has been transformed by the use of modern computers and the availability of large data sets, and that there is more empirical work in the journals. Against this, contributors argue that, though very important, the changes in economics run deeper and wider. The main change is in the status attached to applied work, not the quantity of applied work, which has always been large, and computing may have been important but it did not determine the outcome. And economics has become more deeply embedded in the process of policy making.

To learn more, read the introduction made freely available.

Unpacking Tourism

ddrhr_129Tourism shapes popular fantasies of adventure, structures urban and natural space, creates knowledge around difference, and demands an array of occupations servicing the insatiable needs of those who travel for leisure. Even as migrants and refugees have become targets of ire from far-right parties, international tourism has grown worldwide.

The most recent issue of Radical History Review, “Unpacking Tourism,” posits a radical approach to the study of tourism, highlighting how tourism as a paradigmatic modern encounter bleeds into diplomacy, militarism, and empire building. Contributors investigate, among other topics, how the United States has used tourism in Latin America as a tool of interventionist foreign policy, how Bethlehem’s Manger Square has become a contested space between Palestinians and the Israeli state, how Spain’s economy increasingly relies on northern European tourists, and how the US military’s Cold War–era guidebooks attempted to convert soldiers stationed abroad into “ambassadors of goodwill.”

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Q&A with Howard E. Covington Jr., Author of Lending Power

Covington, Howard photo cred Joe Rodriguez.

Photo by Joe Rodriguez

Howard E. Covington Jr. is a freelance historian and biographer and the author or coauthor of several books, including Terry Sanford: Politics, Progress, and Outrageous Ambitions, also published by Duke University Press; The Story of Nationsbank: Changing the Face of American BankingHenry Frye: North Carolina’s First African American Chief Justice; and Favored by Fortune: George W. Watts and the Hills of Durham. An award-winning newspaper reporter and editor, Covington received the Ragan Old North State Award for nonfiction in 2004. His latest book is Lending Power: How Self-Help Credit Union Turned Small-Time Loans into Big-Time Change, the compelling story of the nonprofit Center for Community Self-Help, a community-oriented and civil rights-based financial institution that has helped provide loans to those who lacked access to traditional financing while fighting for consumer protection for all Americans.

Lending PowerWhat drew you to write about Self-Help? How did you become involved in this story?

This is an unusual story that doesn’t follow the normal theme of the life and times of an up-and-coming NGO. I was drawn to the improbable. How did a credit union initially funded by the proceeds of a bake sale become the largest lender for low- and moderate-income home borrowers in the nation?

Martin Eakes and Bonnie Wright founded the Center for Community Self-Help to assist displaced factory workers in North Carolina become worker-owners in the plants where they once worked. They were savvy enough to learn from the experience, which did not work, and shifted their strategy. They didn’t change the mission—to assist those trying to make it on the margins of the economy—but they found a new way to give folk a hand up. Home ownership replaced worker-owned business as the way out.

Most NGO founders fail to learn as they work and eventually come to a dead end. Self-Help adjusted to meet reality. That’s a good story with lessons for many in public service work.

Eakes and others at Self-Help cooperated with me on this project, but not all met it with enthusiasm. Eakes rebuffed my first attempt to do this book. He later agreed to my work on the condition that it not become his biography. That was hard to manage, but I believe I honored the spirit of that request.

 Who does the Center for Community Self-Help serve in North Carolina? What impact has it had not just for individuals, but for communities?

Self-Help now provides financial services for large segments of the nation’s unbanked population from California to Florida. Those who benefit most are African Americans, single mothers, Latinos, and underemployed workers who have not had ready access to home loans or other financial services at a cost they can afford.

Communities have benefited from Self-Help’s partnership with larger institutions, such as Duke University, in the rehabilitation of entire neighborhoods. Self-Help has helped neighbors work with neighbors since the mid-1980s. It continues to provide technical support and funding for neighborhoods across the state.

In Chicago, Self-Help saved a community bank that had long served the city’s large Latino community. Borrowers facing foreclosure were assisted with loan modifications that allowed them to stay in their homes. Likewise, the financial strength of a local financial institution was restored and today continues to serve its customers.

 What made Self-Help so successful?

It was nimble and willing to adapt. It also developed sources of income independent of foundations or government agencies. It has been able to dance to its own tune, not that called by someone else.

It was creative and willing to take risks, moving into segments of financial services that traditional banks had either ignored or disregarded. Opportunity lay in the space between the feet of the big elephants in the marketplace. It then took what it learned and shared it with others.

Throughout the years, it remained true to its mission and recruited a staff, willing to work for low wages, that believed the organization could make a difference in the lives of those it served.

What are some of the biggest challenges that Self-Help has faced? How did it overcome those challenges?

Five to eight years on, Martin Eakes and the Self-Help staff wrestled with Self-Help’s future and determined that there were multiple ways to serve. This willingness to adapt to lessons learned allowed Self-Help to expand into other areas of work. It also resulted in growing confidence of the ability of Self-Help staff members to deal with multiple opportunities and move beyond a narrow range of options.

What relevance does your book hold for readers who might not be familiar with Self-Help? What lessons can readers take away?

The principles that have guided Self-Help can be applied to any NGO. Focus of mission, sustainability, adaptability, resilience, and adherence to fundamental business practices are tenets that will aid any organization. They do not have to limit the mission or dampen the passions of those called to serve.

The book also provides a broader understanding of the causes of the Great Recession, a financial catastrophe that was driven by the greed and arrogance of Wall Street, not the low-to-moderate income borrowers who got caught up in the tidal wave.

How do you see the role of Self-Help moving forward, especially in the current political climate?

Self-Help continues to use its creative lending to restore historic properties and revitalize communities. Financial services—loans at reasonable rates, savings accounts, small loans—are part of a portfolio at credit unions in California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Florida. The network will continue to grow, especially in the Southeast.

Self-Help has avoided partisanship, but has not avoided dealing in areas rife with controversy. It has one of the largest lending programs for charter schools in the nation. Its clients are carefully selected to insure soundness of the program and relevance to the communities served.

Over the years, Self-Help worked with Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature to pass North Carolina predatory lending law, which helped the state avoid the worst of the Great Recession. It does draw heaps of criticism from segments of the financial industry—payday lenders, title lenders—for its work at the Center for Responsible Lending, its advocacy and policy development shop.

You can order Lending Power from your favorite local or online bookstore (print and e-editions available) or save 30% when you order directly from Duke University Press. Use coupon code E17LEND at check out to save.

Read to Respond: Labor

R2R final logoOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. This post focuses on labor, worker’s rights, and neoliberalism. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

Labor

These articles are freely available until December 15, 2017. Follow along with the series over the next several months and share your thoughts with #ReadtoRespond.

Symposium on the Contributions of Business to Economics

ddhope_49_2In the most recent issue of History of Political Economy, “Symposium on the Contributions of Business to Economics,” edited by Robert Van Horn and Edward Nik-khah, contributors examine how business has influenced economic policy, how businesses have actively participated in constructing economic doctrines, and how businesspersons used, engaged with, challenged, and steered economists in economic policy.

The issue focuses on the contributions of business to economics and brings together contributors from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Editors and contributors examine the historiographical challenges of determining who is an economist and who is a businessperson. These essays shed light on how the relationship between business and economics has evolved and suggest directions for future historical work.

“Symposium of the Contributions of Business to Economics” includes articles on topics such as:

  • mercantilism
  • political economy
  • epistemology
  • international trade
  • business consulting
  • science and democracy

and much more.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

Remembering Craufurd Goodwin

goodwin-cropped.jpgWe are saddened to learn that Craufurd Goodwin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Economics and the founding editor of History of Political Economy, passed away last week.

He is remembered at Duke University Press for being an incredibly vibrant and larger-than-life person. Goodwin’s editorial term for the journal lasted from 1969 through 2010 and he was a great publishing partner with the Press for many years.

From Duke Today:

“Craufurd was one of a small group of people who started the field of the history of economic thought,” said Paul Dudenhefer, assistant director of the Duke EcoTeach writing program who worked with Goodwin for more than 15 years. “It used to be done as part of economics in general. Through the founding of the journal, he helped make it its own subfield. He institutionalized the subfield of the history of economics.”

Among colleagues, Goodwin made the environment interesting. Dudenhefer said Goodwin “was always eager to talk about the fascinating things he was reading and writing about. Working with him was extremely educational and entertaining. He made me laugh every day.”

A past president and distinguished fellow of the History of Economics Society, Goodwin was instrumental in the construction of the professional community of historians of economics.

Our sincerest condolences go out to Craufurd Goodwin’s family, friends, and colleagues, as well as the Duke community.

Labor and Empire

ddlab_13_3_4In the most recent issue of Labor, “Land and Empire,” edited by Leon Fink and Julie Greene, contributors consider the question: “Who built the US empire?” By taking us into the world of working class people across North and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, the essays in this double issue recount a history of empire building focused on the interconnections between capitalist and state expansionism.

Topics include labor and resistance in the US Army during the Civil War, Imperial politics of Filipino labor, Puerto Rican laborers in the Dominican Republic, and the decolonization of Korean labor under US occupation, among others.

From the introduction:

The articles in this double issue of Labor thus emerge from and reflect an exciting field of historical research and intellectual engagement, including new directions in transnational and imperial history and renewed engagement in both of these fields by labor historians. Together they demonstrate the inextricable connections between the history of US empire and the history of labor. The articles reveal dynamics in the logic of US empire that would not be visible in a top-down historical methodology. Furthermore, they demonstrate that what we think of as “US labor history” involved working people and sites of labor around the world. They challenge us not only to make global processes and interactions relevant to our narratives and interpretations of labor and working-class history but, more particularly, to realize the significance of imperial and colonial power relations in shaping that broader labor history. Five major themes weave through the essays as they engage with the labor history of empire. They draw our attention to the unfree labor of military service and its central role in building North American and US empire; struggles over citizenship in the unequal territories of the United States; the complex role of colonial and postcolonial subjects as migrant laborers; the labor tensions involved in US occupations; and labor migration as central to the logic of empire.

Read the full introduction, made freely available.

National Coffee Day

Today is National Coffee Day—the perfect opportunity to say “thank you” to the foamy friend that renders us functional in our day-to-day lives. But this drink has a complex and conflict-filled history, and modern coffee production is a world of its own. Check out some of our scholarship on the brewed beverage.

978-0-8223-5150-4In From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive, Paige West tracks coffee as it moves from producers in Papua New Guinea to consumers around the world. This vivid ethnography illuminates the social lives of the people who produce, process, distribute, market, and consume coffee.

Julia Landweber examines coffee’s adoption into French culture and diet in “This Marvelous Bean,” published in French Historical Studies (volume 38, issue 2). She explores how coffee, initially mistrusted by the French for its bitterness, health risks, and associations with the Ottoman Empire, became a beloved beverage and attracted a burgeoning culture of consumers interested in exotic novelties.

978-0-8223-3766-9Historians trace the paths of many of Latin America’s most important exports—coffee, bananas, rubber, sugar, and more—in From Silver to Cocaine. Each contributor follows a specific commodity from its inception, through its development and transport, to its final destination in the hands of consumers.

Charles W. Bergquist’s influential 1986 book Coffee and Conflict in Colombia, 1886-1910, had several important consequences for the study of Latin American history and the study of Colombia. Bergquist’s analysis of this transitional period left a mark on all subsequent studies in Latin American affairs. His examination of the growth of the coffee industry and the Thousand Days’ War is a major contribution to the field.

978-0-8223-2218-4In “That a Poor Man Be Industrious,” a chapter of Identity and Struggle at the Margins of the Nation-State, Aldo Lauria-Santiago examines the experience of a late-1800s ladino peasant community in El Salvador with land tenure, coffee production, and regional politics. The community’s experience with the pressures and opportunities of an expanding coffee economy provides insight into El Salvador’s ladino peasantry.

Nancy Um’s “Foreign Doctors at the Imam’s Court,” published in Genre (volume 49, issue 2), sheds light on an overlooked phenomenon: early modern medical diplomacy to Qasimi Yemen during the “Coffee Era,” in which foreign merchants flocked to the southern Arabian Peninsula with the interest of procuring coffee, a commodity that was then still difficult to purchase elsewhere.

In “Territories of Desire,” published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (volume 12, issue 2), Aymon Kreil contrasts the intimacy of coffee shops in Egypt, as locales where men gather to chat about sex, with the intimacy of conversations within the family. Although research often focuses on family as the realm of intimacy, Kreil argues the importance of considering alternate contexts.

Donald J. Trump and the Spirit of Proletarian Luxury

Donald J. Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidential election raises worrying issues concerning the spirit of our times. In today’s guest post, John Armitage and Joanne Roberts, co-editors of the recent special issue of Cultural Politics on “The Spirit of Luxury,” reflect on Trump’s promotion of “the spirit of proletarian luxury.”

ddcup_12_1Donald J. Trump is a highly successful businessman with a net worth, according to Forbes, of $4.5 billion. As the owner, chairman, and president of The Trump Organization, he caters to the desires of the super-rich through the construction and operation of luxury real estate developments, hotels, golf courses, and retail outlets. Indeed, the success of his company relies on the super-rich: a demographic group imbued with “the spirit of haute luxury,” characterized by values of refinement, sophistication and discretion.

In the race for the Republican nomination, Trump is wooing mainly white working-class Republicans, many of whom are still reeling from the impact of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, and who feel betrayed by the extant political classes. Trump, then, offers something fresh, as a face from beyond the realm of politics, yet simultaneously familiar, as a television celebrity. However, we contend that Trump is trading down in terms of the groups that he is seeking to attract. In the process, he is adopting crude, unsophisticated, and sometimes indiscreet language and behaviors. Consequently, Trump offers himself up as a symbol of seemingly attainable success: in Trump’s world, everyone can achieve prosperity displayed through luxury penthouse suites, mansions, aircraft, cars and a whole host of other luxury goods and services. Moreover, Trump presents the prospect of upward social mobility through hard work in a society with few barriers. In the process of promoting the contemporary manifestation of the American Dream, Trump thus advances the spirit of luxury. But he does so in ways that reach beyond the super-rich. Certainly, for us, Trump cultivates what we call “the spirit of proletarian luxury” – the brash, “bling,” even vulgar, type of luxury that satisfies the need to display success through conspicuous consumption.

Given his own great wealth, Trump has deep pockets with which to finance his campaign. However, the indirect cost, in terms of the erosion of support from his super-rich clients, is proving to be high. The results of a recent survey by BAV Consulting/Young & Rubicam, reported in Politico, suggests that the Trump brand is losing its luster among high income consumers. From the perspective of Trump as a luxury brand, therefore, we argue that the brand is being democratized such that its diversification into national politics is making it more accessible to a wider, yet, crucially, less affluent, group of followers. Nevertheless, as a luxury brand, Trump must be aspirational and inaccessible to the less well-off; otherwise it loses its symbolic value as a luxury among the super-rich.

While the Trump luxury brand may be losing ground among the super-rich, Trump’s own personal popularity has soared among those with lower incomes. By appealing to a mass electorate, then, Trump portrays himself as the personification of the American Dream, of the new spirit of proletarian luxury that is within everyone’s reach.