News

SPERI launches new postgraduate research programme on the political economy of the Weinstein scandal

SPERI has launched a new postgraduate research programme that will focus on the political economy of the Weinstein scandal.

PREPPE – the Postgraduate Research Experience Programme in Political Economy – offers opportunities for students on the SPERI-affiliated MA in Global Political Economy to participate in a new research project, in the context of an on-going commitment to research-led learning.

The scheme, which will run between June –September 2018, presents a unique opportunity for students to work with academics at SPERI to co-produce and contribute to a political economy research project

This year the PREPPE project will focus on the political economy of the Weinstein scandal — the exposure of systematic sexual harassment and assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein which gave rise to the #MeToo movement and a vital public dialogue about sexual and gender politics.

The project is led by Dr. Liam Stanley, Dr. Ellie Gore, and Prof. Genevieve LeBaron. The small team of MA students involved in the project will work with Liam, Ellie and Genevieve with the goal of co-authoring publications that will lead to a peer-reviewed academic journal.

28 June 2018 by
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Localising pension fund investments – new SPERI report published today

SPERI today publishes a new report by Dr Craig Berry (Reader at Manchester Metropolitan University) which explores the prospect of UK pension funds localising their investment strategies. The report ‘Localising pension fund investments; Engaging with stakeholders, overcoming the barriers’ is the culmination of a project, funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, UK policy-makers have looked to pension funds to contribute to an investment-led economic recovery. However, there have been few substantive policy changes to support this agenda, and little attention has been given to the prospect of pension funds localising their investment strategies. The project investigated the reasons behind this and explored the potential for local authority pension funds and private sector pension funds to contribute to localisation in investment practice. Dr Craig Berry, Tom Hunt and Dr Adam Barber worked on the SPERI project which you can read more about here.

The project findings are drawn from new SPERI research and from a series of seminars held in late 2017 and 2018 with stakeholders and experts in three English city-regions: Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham. Participants included local government officials, economists, local business and civil society leaders, and finance and investment professionals (including pensions industry representatives).

Download the report

The project report makes a range of suggestions for policy and practice.

Central government:

  • A genuine, place-based public investment programme should be established by the Treasury, which pension funds can cohere around.
  • Greater thought is required, by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, about the implications of pooling for locally-oriented investment strategies among local authority pension funds.
  • Both departments need to consider whether metro-mayors have sufficient powers and capacity to contribute to the localisation agenda, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy needs to consider whether the British Business Bank could engage systematically with pension funds.
  • The Department for Work and Pensions needs to ensure that pensions regulation (such as valuation cycles) does not discourage local investments, reconsider whether the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) can further localise its investment strategy, and explore how the barriers to collective defined contribution provision can be overcome.

Local government:

  • There is scope for metro-mayors and combined authorities to think more strategically about the operation of local authority pension funds. Mayors should also be looking to mediate between private sector pension funds and potential investees in the local economy, and if necessary push for greater devolution of fiscal powers to fulfil this function effectively.

Large employers:

  • Large employers need to take their role as local anchor institutions seriously – and this role should be reflected in their pensions practice. They should also seek to survey members more extensively on investment preferences – an initiative NEST could also undertake.
  • More generally, all relevant stakeholders (including trade unions) should consider whether local investment strategies might be best realised away from the formal processes of pensions saving.

The project also suggests that priorities for further research in this area include:

  • Developing a ‘census’ of the pensions capital created in the private sector across different localities and regions, and how it tends to be invested.
  • Understanding the investment strategies of large defined contribution scheme providers.
  • It will be vital also to explore the capacity of local authorities to engage with private sector pension funds.

The project benefited hugely from partnerships with the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Local Authority Pension Funds and Birmingham City Council.

Sadly, Kieran Quinn (then leader of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council and Chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund) died during the course of this project. This report is dedicated to Kieran, and his pioneering work on pension fund investments in Greater Manchester. A short article about Kieran’s work by Andy Rowe can be found below.

BUILD THE FUTURE

Andy Rowe. Former Project Manager to Cllr Kieran Quinn as Chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, and Leader of Tameside Council

I worked with Kieran Quinn for the last two years on developing a strategy to promote the work of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) and the pooling of pension funds in the North West, and wider across the UK. The former Chancellor George Osborne created a platform for UK Pension Funds to ‘pool’ their investment funds for possible infrastructure works and to work together.

Kieran and I discussed future plans for funds to play a much more active and visible role in infrastructure development on affordable housing and rail in the UK. He was a man of vision and lots of intellect. He thought through his project steps and he had many new ideas for outcomes and delivery.

There is nothing new in pension funds investing in infrastructure as the Australian, Canadian and American funds have demonstrated over the past 30 years, greatly benefiting the beneficiaries of these funds. Ranging from roads, bridges, schools, rail and station hubs the scope and scale of infrastructure opportunities are wide.

GLIL was one of the first infrastructure vehicle partnerships, established by the London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA) and GMPF in 2015. It arose from a conversation between Sir Merrick Cockell, Chair of the LPFA, and Kieran where both funds agreed to put in £500M each, which attracted other pension funds as the development progressed.

The fund has invested in infrastructure including a wind farm in Ayrshire, and the purchase of trains for Abellio.

Kieran’s philosophy included a social weave in the fund’s developments, not only to invest, and return a profit for the pensioners within the fund, but also to do some local and social good.

This could be manifested by local employment and training for apprentices on construction sites working on the fund’s projects. Kieran was seeking to draft a Construction Charter working with the trade unions to underpin this. As part of this thinking I researched and worked with the unions to jointly develop a Construction Charter that would uphold both the fund’s financial returns and benefit the workers on the sites.

Affordable housing was one of Kieran’s big projects. Having developed a working financial model (Matrix Homes) and built multiple plots of affordable homes for local people across Manchester in partnership with the Council, the Matrix model was ready to showcase to other Funds to build more affordable homes across the North West and Yorkshire. The model was flexible to adjust the financial model to suit different funds and councils and was ready to scale up with more partners.

Kieran was keen to get involved in infrastructure on rail and he had started a conversation on future rail and investment to utilise new technologies by talking to partners in Liverpool and Leeds.

Creating viable employment, investment in youth training and building the fund was all part of the strategic and promising reach he offered. Above all creating viable partnerships with other pension funds and working with the private sector as partners was the legacy that Kieran leaves behind.

*Disclaimer I do not now work for GMPF, or have any connection to their current strategy now, or in the future.

28 June 2018 by
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SPERI Paper 44 | New paper by Inga Rademacher on the legitimacy of tax cuts in the United States

We are very pleased to publish a new SPERI Paper by Dr Inga Rademacher. Dr Rademacher’s paper ‘Universality, market justice, wasteful government: the legitimacy of tax cuts on higher incomes in the United States 1981-2001 aims to explain the impact of legitimation practices on the acceptance of heightened inequality in the US tax system.

The growing acceptance of neoliberal tax cuts, concessions in redistribution and increasing inequality among American policy makers since the 1980s is often ascribed to rising authority of the economics profession. But through content analysis the paper shows that the two largest tax cuts in American history, the Reagan tax cut in 1981 and the George W. Bush tax cut in 2001, only persisted when the Republican Party developed strong normative narratives of universality, market justice and wasteful government which pushed Democratic arguments in the cognitive realm. Dr Rademacher argues that this normative imbalance is the source of growing acceptance of neoliberalism and that the power of normative arguments is greater than the power of economic theory in legitimating inequality.

Dr Inga Rademacher is an Associate Lecturer for Political Economy at the Department for Politics and International Relations at Goldsmiths College; University of London. Her research explores American and German tax cuts for higher incomes since the 1980s with a particular focus on societal conflicts over the distribution of resources in times of productivity decline.

The Paper is available to download here. It is is the forty-fourth paper in out SPERI Paper series.

26 June 2018 by
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$2.5M funding awarded for global ‘Hidden Costs of Supply Chains’ project

Professor Genevieve LeBaron, co-director of SPERI, is part of an international team of researchers that has received $2.5M for a new seven-year research project ‘The Hidden Costs of Supply Chains: A Global Investigation’

The project, funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, will be led by Peter Klein at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Graduate School of Journalism in collaboration with journalism schools around the world; political economy and global governance scholars from five continents; Pulitzer Prize winning reporters and international media organisations

Professor LeBaron is a co-investigator in the partnership which will run until 2025. The other academic co-investigators include Ben Cashore (Yale), Claire Cutler (Victoria), Andrew Crane (Bath), Stefano Ponte (CBS), Peter Dauvergne (UBC), Jamie Peck (UBC), and Jennifer Clapp (Waterloo).

The goal of the project is to bring the hidden costs of global supply chains from the shadows into the mainstream – contributing new knowledge about the winners and losers within the global political economy, and highlighting critical pathways for policy intervention.

Through in-depth research investigation, reporting and original analysis, the project will examine key nodes of the supply chain: from production and manufacturing, to shipping and distribution through to final retail and consumption. All are thematically linked by questions of risk, value distribution and power that underpin the business, politics and economic geography supply chain governance literature. A Creative Commons archive library (housed at UBC) will facilitate the storage and exchange of gathered research and material towards future exploration and resolution of these critically under-reported stories.

Hidden Costs has will work with The New York Times, PBS FRONTLINE, Toronto Star, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC News, and Smithsonian Channel. These partners will provide additional funding and support for reporting projects, and will distribute the content, which will include documentaries, newspaper series and digital projects.

The seven-year-long project will culminate in a travelling exhibit staged in two shipping containers – built in collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada – which will travel around North America to key hubs of global commerce.

More information about the project can be found on the Global Reporting Centre here

22 June 2018 by
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The Global Business of Forced Labour | Major report by Professor Genevieve LeBaron published

Labour exploitation including forced labour is endemic at the base of global tea and cocoa supply chains. This is the conclusion of a pioneering international study published today by Professor Genevieve LeBaron, Co-Director of SPERI.

The two-year Global Business of Forced Labour study investigated the business models of forced labour in global tea and cocoa supply chains. Forced labour is work brought about by physical, psychological or economic coercion. Extensive on-the-ground research with the cocoa industry in Ghana and the tea industry in India revealed agricultural workers are paid severely low wages and are routinely subjected to multiple forms of exploitation. The project involved in-depth interviews with more than 120 tea and cocoa workers, a survey of over 1,000 tea and cocoa workers from 22 tea plantations in India and 74 cocoa communities in Ghana, and over 100 interviews with business and government actors.

The study also found that prominent ethical certification schemes are failing to create working environments that are free from exploitation and forced labour.

Genevieve LeBaron: “Tea and cocoa products are staple household items made and sold by some of the world’s largest brands. But at the base of the global supply chains that put these products on our shelves are highly exploited tea and cocoa workers who are routinely subjected to abuse and living far below the poverty line. The prevalence of forced labour in tea and cocoa supply chains should be a wake-up call for government, industry and auditors.”

The Report is available to download here. A series of policy briefs that provide targeted recommendations for policymakers, business, and certification organisations are also available to download here.

Key findings and statistics from the project include:

  • There are widespread patterns of labour abuse in tea and cocoa supply chains feeding UK markets. Low prices and irresponsible sourcing practices create high profits for retail and brand firms but this creates a strong and systemic business ‘demand’ for cheap and forced labour.
  • The project found evidence of abuse including: sexual violence; verbal abuse; threats of violence; threats of dismissal; debt bondage; the under-provision of legally mandated goods and services including housing, sanitation, water, food and medical care; non and under-payment of wages; and requirements to complete unpaid labour as a condition of employment.
  • Employers profit from forced labour by using it to reduce the cost of business. The study finds evidence that employers in the tea industry systematically under-pay wages and under-provide legally-mandated essential services such as drinking water and toilets. In the cocoa industry employers cut costs by under-paying wages and creating situations of debt bondage.
  • Although chocolate and tea companies are highly profitable, workers at the base of their supply chains live far below the poverty line. Tea workers’ wages in India are as low as 25 per cent of the poverty line amount and cocoa workers’ wages in Ghana are around 30 per cent of the poverty line amount.
  • 40 per cent of tea workers within the study have had unfair deductions made from their wages.
  • 47 per cent of tea workers within the study do not have access to water that is safe to drink.
  • 23 per cent of cocoa workers within the study have performed work they were not paid for.
  • 95 per cent of cocoa workers within the study did not know whether the farm they were working on was certified or not.

Tea and cocoa supply chains are covered by well-known ethical auditing and certification schemes which set standards for workers around basic services, fair treatment, wages and debt, health and safety, and workers’ rights. The research found that these schemes are failing to prevent labour exploitation and standards are routinely violated by employers.

The study included tea plantations certified by Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Ethical Trade Partnership, and Trustea, and cocoa producers who are members of the Fairtrade and UTZ certified co-operative, Kuapa Kokoo.

In the tea industry little difference was found in labour standards, including wage levels, between certified and non-certified tea plantations, with certified plantations faring worse than non-certified plantations against some indicators of labour abuse and unfair treatment.

Workers reported they are instructed to alter their working practices to meet standards during audits by certifiers, but are then asked to revert to breaking standards the following day, suggesting that producers are cheating audits and inspections. In cocoa, 95 per cent of workers within the study did not know whether their worksite was certified or not. There is extensive confusion amongst producers about how certification operates and whether or not they were certified.

“The exploitation we document is not randomly occurring abuse by a few ‘bad apples’. Instead it is the result of structural dynamics of how global agricultural supply chains are organised.

 

“Highly profitable companies at the helm of these supply chains exert heavy price pressure on suppliers. This puts extreme pressure on tea and cocoa producers to cut costs and creates a business ‘demand’ for cheap, and sometimes forced labour.

 
“Ethical certification schemes are failing to tackle this demand. Some of the worst cases of exploitation documented within our research occurred on ethically certified plantations.

 

“To address the root cause of forced labour in global agricultural production, government, industry and workers’ organisation should ensure living wages are paid to all workers in supply chains, strengthen labour enforcement and involve workers in efforts to tackle forced labour.”

 

Professor Genevieve LeBaron, Co-Director of SPERI

31 May 2018 by
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“The world economy is more dangerous and less stable now than in 2008″ | Interview with Professor Colin Hay

Nearly ten years on from the global financial crisis of 2008, Colin Hay, SPERI co-director, and Tom Hunt, SPERI  Policy Research Officer, have edited a book which provides a timely warning as to the dangers still present and building in the global economic system.

In The Coming Crisis (Palgrave, 2017) they draw on research on the political economy of growth, stagnation, austerity and crisis, placing each in the context of the wider environmental crisis.

Sciences Po where Colin is Professor of Political Science in the Centre d’études européennes recently published an interview with Colin about the book which is reposted here:

Q. Why this book? Haven’t elements been put in place to prevent a crisis similar to that of 2008?

One might hope so; but things are not quite so simple. When one analyzes the global economy in any detail, it is clear that very significant risks still exist. That is the simple conclusion of the fourteen leading political economists who have contributed to this work. Each chapter dissects the global political economy in a different way, uncovering and exposing the current sources of disequilibrium and instability.

Each contributor offers a distinct perspective on the symptoms of the present moment, reflecting and speculating on the extent to which the world economy has become more dangerous, and less stable, since 2008.

The book explores multiple dimensions of the coming crisis through issues such as the contagion effects of financial markets, secular stagnation, widening global inequality, the European migrant crisis, the Eurozone, China’s development and the ecological crisis.

Q. Isn’t it rather pessimistic to presume that we are the verge of another crisis?

Yes and no. To prepare ourselves for the possibility of a coming crisis certainly sounds pessimistic. But it can also be thought of as the very condition of any realistic optimism. It is better to be optimistic having considered the potential reasons for pessimism than to allow one’s optimism to prevent one from acknowledging the very possibility that there might be things to worry about in the first place. Put slightly differently, optimism sounds good, but optimism today is typically accompanied by a certain complacent naivety. Our aim in this book is, in effect, to stress test the characteristic optimism of mainstream economic approaches.

Q. What should we be worrying about?

It is at least credible to think that the world we live in today is a more dangerous place and is less stable systemically than it was in 2008. In the economies from which the contagion effects of the last crisis radiated outwards, there has been little if any ‘rebalancing’ of the domestic economy. Such economies remain stubbornly dependent on credit and an overgrown financial sector, with growth once again associated with alarming asset-price inflation.

And on a global stage there is little to lift the gloom. The period since 2008 is likely to be remembered as one in which the opportunity for global financial market re-regulation and genuine governance was missed. Our banks remain too big or too interconnected or too correlated in their behaviour to be allowed to fail and yet too big, too interconnected or too correlated to bail. What that means is that a second crisis has certainly not become less likely. And what we also know is that the capacity to deal with such a crisis has been significantly eroded by the nature of the public response to the first crisis – to the point where it is no longer clear what the response to a second crisis might now be.

Q. Are there new phenomena that add to the previous risks and our failure to address them?

Absolutely, especially in Europe. First there is ‘Brexit’ – a genuine threat not just for the British economy. If Ricardo taught us anything it is that a worsening of the terms of trade between partners hurts all parties. ‘Brexit’, in other words, may be self-inflicted but it is not a victimless crime. And ‘Brexit’ feels to us to be part of a wider dynamic – a tipping-point, perhaps, in which European integration starts to give way to a no less protracted but rather different process of European disintegration.

What is also clear – indeed, rather more clear (for very little about ‘Brexit’ is clear at this point) – is that austerity is ravaging Southern Europe and, in combination with the migration crisis, is contributing to the resurgence of a political right likely to accelerate the pace of European disintegration, not just economically but also socially.

Q. Why are phenomena such as migration in Europe or the ecological crisis creating economic risks?

Both pose not just economic risks, but risks of a more general kind – indeed, both might be thought of as profound humanitarian crises. These dwarf in a way their economic effects. But the economic risks of each are also considerable and should not be understated. Take the implications of the migrant crisis for Greece, for instance. Here, in a country already mired in economic crisis, suffering profoundly with the austerity imposed upon it, the migrant crisis has produced a flourishing of the informal, illegal and illicit economy, with major consequences both for the capacity of Greek institutions and the Greek economy to rebuild and for the deepening of social inequality. If anything the potential effects of the environmental crisis are more profound still – in that they are genuinely global and genuinely system threatening. The escalating costs of adaptation to, and compensation for, accelerating global environmental change alone threaten to push public spending and, above all, public indebtedness beyond what have already proved historically unprecedented and unsustainable levels. It is in this way that these crises are mutually reinforcing – ‘a perfect storm’, as we suggest.

Q. And how might we guard against these risks?

The book makes the case for a form of prospective precautionary thinking to anticipate and protect ourselves against a coming crisis. What is required is a change in mind-set and disposition. Instead of reassuring ourselves that we have entered a post-crisis period and are now on the road to recovery, we suggest that we should instead be looking out for the frailties and contradictions that remain within the system. We need to identify these and to start to build potential scenarios around them. The book starts to develop some of these, but its contribution is less to provide a definitive resolution of these issues than it is to re-focus thinking on the difficulty and necessity of the task that still remains. That might not sound very optimistic – and in a sense it is not. But it is, we feel, a necessary step in developing the kind of precautionary thinking that can best protect us from the risks present in the economic system. It is, in that way, a first step on the path from blithe and blinkered optimism to a more tempered realism.

The Coming Crisis, edited by Colin Hay and Tom Hunt

The Coming Crisis is available to purchase in hard copy and as an e-book. All of the book’s 14 chapters can each be individually bought.

Table of contents

  1. Introduction: The Coming Crisis, the Gathering Storm | Colin Hay and Tom Hunt
  2. We are Not in Kansas Anymore: Economic and Political Shocks | Helen Thompson
  3. On ‘the Other Crisis’: Diagnosing the Socio-Ecological Crisis | Martin Craig
  4. Stagflation and the Shackles of Market Discipline | Jeremy Green
  5. Can Global Governance Prevent the Coming Crisis? | Anthony Payne
  6. The Coming and Current Crisis of Indecent Work | Genevieve LeBaron
  7. The Coming Crisis of Planetary Instability | Peter Dauvergne
  8. The European Migrant Crisis and the Future of the European Project | Nicola Phillips
  9. The Paradox of Monetary Credibility | Jacqueline Best
  10. Enduring Imbalances in the Eurozone | Scott Lavery
  11. Systemic Stabilisation and a New Social Contract | Andrew Baker and Richard Murphy
  12. Secular Stagnation: The New Normal for the UK? | Jonathan Perraton
  13. China Crisis? | Matthew Bishop
  14. Conclusion: The Crisis Gets Political | Andrew Gamble

https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783319638133

8 May 2018 by
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Flawed Capitalism | David Coates book launch at SPERI

On Monday May 14th SPERI is delighted to be hosting the UK launch for Professor David Coates’ new book Flawed Capitalism: The Anglo-American Condition and its Resolution, published by Agenda Publishing.

The launch will be held at ICOSS at the University of Sheffield between 5.00-7.00pm. A talk by David Coates (Professor of Anglo-American Studies, Wake Forest University, North Carolina) will be followed by audience discussion and a drinks reception from 6.15pm.

Click here to register your place

Drawing on over four decades of research and writing on the political economy of the UK and United States, Flawed Capitalism presents David Coates’ analysis of the Anglo-American condition and the social and economic crisis besetting both countries.

Charting the rise and fall of the social settlements that have shaped and defined the postwar years, Coates traces the history of the two economies. The book exposes the failings and shortcomings of the Reagan/Thatcher years, showing how the underlying fragility of a settlement based on the weakening of organized labour and the extensive deregulation of business culminated in the financial crisis of 2008.

Flawed Capitalism makes the case for the creation of a new transatlantic social settlement – a less flawed capitalism – one based on greater degrees of income equality and social justice.

Watch David discuss his new book here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUf0Tp8YOeg

“Anybody seeking to understand why Donald Trump is president and why the UK voted for Brexit should read David Coates’s important new book. It explains the flaws in the Anglo-Saxon economic model; even better, it suggests ways of putting things right.” – Larry Elliott, Economics Editor, The Guardian

“This excellent book not only shows us how the model of capitalism operating in the US and the UK is flawed, it also tells us why, through an original and engaging account of imperialist politics and ideological hubris in American and British statecraft. Coates’s writing combines both depth and breadth – a very rare feat – and this book deserves to be widely read.” – Craig Berry, SPERI, University of Sheffield

“With this provocative book and its bold examination of the past fifty years of political and economic change in the United States and the UK, David Coates makes an essential contribution to our understanding of the enormous challenges facing both sides of the Atlantic today. Beyond that, it lays bare the choices people and their leaders must make if future generations are to have a semblance of the opportunities we have had.” – Judy Woodruff, PBS NewsHour

Register at: https://flawedcapitalism_davidcoates.eventbrite.co.uk/

26 April 2018 by
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The rise and rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation | New SPERI Global Political Economy Brief

We are very pleased to publish a new SPERI Global Political Economy Brief on ‘The rise and rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation‘.

The Brief charts the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and assesses how Russia and China have come together to cooperate on common geostrategic and geoeconomic goals for the long-term economic integration of Asia.

The new Brief by Rick Rowden, a doctoral researcher in the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, India, argues that the emergence – and steady rise – of the SCO marks an historic inflection point in international politics. Rowden concludes:

The rise of the SCO is symbolic of deeper underlying trend in which Asian regional powers are increasingly asserting ever greater economic and political control over the Asian mainland by establishing new international organisations that bypass the major Western led organisations that have dominated international politics since the mid- 20th Century. Their deepening economic integration and their stepped-up military cooperation suggest that tectonic shifts are underway in global geopolitics and that, in terms of relative power, the historic political and economic influence of the US is likely to be diminished.

Part I of the Brief discusses the origins of the SCO, including its military and economic goals. Part II discusses the China-Russia relationship, which served as the fulcrum for the establishment of the SCO. Part III discusses the recent expansion of the SCO to include both India and Pakistan and considers the likelihood of Iran and Turkey joining in the future.

The Brief is available to download here. It is is the eleventh publication in our Global Political Economy Brief series. 

24 April 2018 by
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Should we put a price on carbon? | Public event on May 11th

Free panel discussion: Should we put a price on carbon?

Friday May 11th, 5.30-7.00pm

Lecture Theatre 6, The Diamond, University of Sheffield, S3 7RD

Registration is free and places can be booked here

Global carbon emissions must be urgently reduced. Almost all countries have agreed to do their part, but emissions continue to increase. So there is a pressing need to decide how we should deal with the problem.

SPERI has partnered with the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures to bring four excellent speakers to Sheffield to discuss one proposed solution: putting a price on carbon.

What is carbon pricing? Where has carbon pricing already been introduced, and has it been successful so far? What lessons can be learnt from any failures? What is the best way to price carbon? Who should bear the cost of paying and are there any drawbacks? Who should decide the price of carbon? How can carbon pricing be made acceptable to the public? And is pricing carbon even a good idea?

The speakers joining us at the event are

  • Dr Maria Carvalho, policy analyst at the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and The Environment.
  • Larry Lohmann, campaigner and researcher based at The Corner House.
  • Ross McKenzie, EU Public Affairs Manager, Drax.
  • Dr Tina Fawcett, Senior Researcher and Acting Deputy Leader, ECI Energy Programme, Oxford University.

The event will be chaired by our very own Martin Craig.

More details can be found on the registration page here.

22 April 2018 by
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Raising the Bar pamphlet featuring SPERI’s Craig Berry launched in parliament

On Monday night SPERI’s Craig Berry spoke at the launch of Raising the Bar: How Household Incomes Can Grow the Way They Used To, a new pamphlet published by the Fabian Society, in the Houses of Parliament.

The pamphlet, available in full here, features Craig alongside Chi Onwurah MP (shadow industrial strategy minister), Anneliese Dodds MP (shadow Treasury minister), Rachel Reeves MP (chair of the energy, business and industrial strategy committee, Torsten Bell (director of the Resolution Foundation), Geoff Tily (senior economist at the TUC), John Mills (founder and chair of JML), Dustin Benton (director of the Green Alliance) and Özlem Onaran (director of Greenwich PERC).

Craig’s essay has also been published, in two parts, by SPERI Comment as ‘From capitalism grounded to grounded capitalism‘. As previously reported, Craig will be leaving SPERI to join the Manchester Metropolitan University business school next month.

 

18 April 2018 by
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New SPERI co-directors announced

A message from Professor Colin Hay

Dear colleagues and friends of SPERI,

I am really delighted to be able to announce some fantastic news about SPERI’s leadership.

Genevieve LeBaron and Adam Leaver have both been offered, and have both accepted, to join me as co-directors of SPERI, with immediate effect. You will find a short biopic of each below.

Given that both Genevieve and Adam have substantial on-going commitments, the months until September will be something of a transitional period. But during that time lots will be happening. We will be advertising a number of post-doctoral research fellowships and rejuvenating SPERI’s web presence, amongst other things.

This is a very important moment in SPERI’s development. I am exceptionally proud of what we have managed to achieve collectively in the six years since we were established, and now thoroughly confident that SPERI will grow from strength to strength in the years ahead. I really look forward to working with Adam and Genevieve in the months and years to come and would just like to thank them for the confidence they have shown already in SPERI in agreeing to take on such important roles in our collective project.

I would like to thank Tony Payne, without whom – of course – none of this would be possible. It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with Tony as co-director since SPERI’s founding. I would also like to take the chance to thank Craig Berry, our current Deputy Director, for his exceptional contribution to SPERI. Craig will be leaving us in May to take up a new post as Reader in Political Economy at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has been a pleasure and privilege to work with and will be greatly missed.

With all best wishes and with thanks for your continued support for and engagement with SPERI,

Colin Hay
Co-Director of SPERI

Adam Leaver

Adam Leaver joined the Sheffield University Management School in October 2017 as Professor of Accounting and Society. He is an ISRF Political Economy Research Fellow. Prior to arriving in Sheffield, Adam was Professor in Financialization and Management at the University of Manchester, and researcher at the Centre for Research In Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC).

His work is interdisciplinary, working at the intersection of critical accounting, political economy and management. He has published multiple co-authored books and articles on financialization and financial crisis and has a track record of publishing impactful public interest reports on financial sector reform.

Adam’s current research interests include: i) using social network analysis methods to map the social relationships that underlie certain complex securities markets; ii) developing a relational theory of the firm to understand the impact of financialization in the corporate sphere; iii) exploring the inter-temporal transfers and tensions that arise as a consequence of financialization; and iv) theorising the sociology of metric gaming in organisations.

Genevieve LeBaron

Genevieve LeBaron is Professor of Politics at the University of Sheffield. She is also Co-Chair of the Yale University Modern Day Slavery Working Group and an Editor of Review of International Political Economy.

Her research focuses on the political economy of the global labour market, including current research projects on the governance of transnational supply chains, the politics and effectiveness of corporate social responsibility, and the business models of forced labour.

In 2017, she was ranked the #1 academic (and #38 overall) on the global Top 100 Human Trafficking & Slavery Influence Leaders List, alongside leaders from the UK and US governments, Apple, Ford and the New York Times. In 2015, she was awarded the Rising Star Engagement Award from the British Academy in recognition of her contributions to research and policy-making on forced labour.

Genevieve currently holds grants from the UK Economic and Social Research Council and the British Academy and UK Department for International Development. Her research has also attracted funding from the Ford Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s Global Challenges Research Fund, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, amongst other funders.

Genevieve is co-founder of openDemocracy.net’s Beyond Trafficking and Slavery. She has written for leading newspapers including The Guardian and Salon.com, and her research on forced labour has been profiled in Fortune Magazine, Forbes, and The Guardian, and has been cited widely in policy initiatives. She is a columnist for the United Nations’ knowledge platform Delta 8.7.

Prior to joining Sheffield, Genevieve was a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. She has also been a visiting scholar at the International Labour Organization in Geneva, the University of California, Berkeley, Osgoode Hall Law School, and Sciences Po. In 2015-2016, she was Yale University’s Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery Fellow.

17 April 2018 by
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OECD global conference on inclusive growth takes place in Parliament

Earlier this month the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Inclusive Growth hosted the OECD’s first ever global parliamentary conference on inclusive growth in the Houses of Parliament. SPERI is the research partner for the APPG. Tom Hunt, SPERI’s Policy Research Officer, led the organisation of the two-day conference.

Parliamentarians from 26 countries took part in the conference to debate new responses to growing global inequality. Along with the Secretary General of the OECD, Angel Gurria, and Chief of Staff, Gabriela Ramos, other speakers at the conference included Sacha Romanovitch, CEO of Grant Thornton; Sir Mike Rake, former Chairman of the CBI; Sue Garrard, executive vice-president of Unilever; Alison Tate, Director of Economic and Social Policy at the ITUC; the Right Reverend David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham; representatives from NESTA and the Cabinet Office – and the actor Michael Sheen, who has founded a new campaign to tackle high cost credit.

The parliamentarians discussed policies that can reconnect wealth creation with tackling inequalities and addressing social justice goals, how markets can empower citizens and reduce poverty and the role of parliamentarians in making these changes happen.

See all of the photos from the OECD conference here and download the presentations and speeches from the conference here. The APPG will hold follow-up events later in the year.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth is a cross-party group of parliamentarians that seeks to develop solutions for a more inclusive and more equal economy. The group is backed by a range of influential individuals and organisations across politics, business, trade unions, finance, churches and faith groups and civil society, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the City of London Corporation and Oxfam. Tom Hunt leads SPERI’s work with the APPG. For further information about the partnership contact Tom and sign up to receive news about the APPG at www.inclusivegrowth.co.uk

17 April 2018 by
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The rationale for local authority pension fund investment decisions | New SPERI report

A new report published today by SPERI assesses the rationale behind the strategic asset allocation of the UK’s largest local authority pension funds since the 2007/2008 financial crisis.

The analysis in this new SPERI British Political Economy Brief by Craig Berry and Adam Barber builds directly upon that of our previous Brief, Local Authority Pension Fund Investment Since the Financial Crisis, which charted changes in the investment patterns of pension funds between 2005 and 2016.

This Brief explores the basis of these changes, such as the move away from equity investment, and the partial move towards ‘alternative’ investments such as infrastructure. It also explores local authority pension fund (LAPF) attitudes towards further ‘pooling’; that is, the agenda, first developed by the Cameron government, to merge LAPFs into a small number of ‘mega-funds’

The full publication can be downloaded here. Through its series of British Political Economy Briefs, SPERI aims to draw upon the expertise of its academic researchers to influence the debate in the UK on sustainable economic recovery.

13 April 2018 by
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Hannah Lambie-Mumford appointed to new Food Standards Agency expert committee

Dr Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Research Fellow at SPERI, has been appointed as an expert member of the Food Standard Agency’s new independent Advisory Committee for Social Science.

The Advisory Committee for Social Science (ACSS) will be an independent, expert committee of the Food Standard Agency (FSA), providing strategic advice, including how the FSA can bring together different types of evidence, approaches and information on a multidisciplinary level to address and evaluate strategic problems. Recruitment for the new ACSS was carried out through open competition and Hannah has been appointed for an initial term of three years.

Hannah has undertaken research on food charity and food insecurity for funders including the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Find out more about her research here. In 2013-14 she was lead author of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) funded ‘review of food aid’. In June 2014 Hannah was awarded first prize for Outstanding Early Career Impact at the ESRC’s Celebrating Impact awards. Hannah sits on Child Poverty Action Group’s (CPAG) policy advisory committee. Her book Hungry Britain: The rise of food charity was published in 2017.

6 April 2018 by
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Professor Mick Moran (1946-2018)

We were deeply saddened to hear of the sudden and unexpected death earlier this week of Professor Mick Moran.  Mick was an active member of SPERI’s International Advisory Board.  He wrote blogs for SPERI Comment, spoke at our meetings, workshops and conferences, acted as referee for our book manuscripts and gave unstinting support to SPERI.

Michael MoranMick was a distinguished authority on British government and politics, public policy and political economy.  After a period at Manchester Polytechnic in the 1970s, he moved to the University of Manchester in 1979, was promoted to Professor in 1990 and stayed there all of the rest of his working life.  Even after ‘retirement’ he continued working with an interdisciplinary group of friends and colleagues attached to CRESC in the Manchester Business School and contributed to their series of important analyses of the ‘Great British Financial Crisis’.

Mick wrote many important books during the course of his career.  These included Governing the Health Care State (1999), The British Regulatory State (2003), Business, Politics and Society (2009) and Politics and Governance in the United Kingdom (2015, 3rd ed.).  In 2017 he also published a wonderful overview of modern British politics, entitled tellingly The End of British Politics?

However, to everyone who knew him and worked with him, Mick was so much more than just a renowned and eminent professor.  He was a constant and readily available source of advice, good and fair judgement, and wisdom.  He gave his time unselfishly to colleagues, young and old, and was the very best that good citizenship in universities can offer.

The most sincere condolences from everyone at SPERI go to Mick’s wife, Winifred; his two sons, Liam and Joe; and his two grandchildren, Tom and Charlie.

6 April 2018 by
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Craig Berry wins prestigious British Academy rising star award

SPERI is delighted to announce that our deputy director Craig Berry has won a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award.

These awards are made to distinguished early career academics to enable engagement in career development through interdisciplinary projects.

Craig’s award builds upon his research on UK industrial strategy, and work on the Industrial Strategy Commission (which was nominated last week for a Guardian University Award). It will fund a project titled Industrial strategy and the transformation of British economic statecraft.

We extend our gratitude to all of those who supported Craig’s nomination and the proposed project, most notably Professor Nick Pearce at the University of Bath, Professor Matthew Watson at the University of Warwick, and SPERI’s Professor Andrew Gamble (who will act as a mentor for the project).

We are rather less delighted to report, however, that Craig will be leaving SPERI in May, to take up a new post as Reader in Political Economy at Manchester Metropolitan University. The project funded by this award will therefore be undertaken by Craig’s new home, Future Economies, in partnership with SPERI and the British Academy.

26 March 2018 by
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Child food insecurity in the UK- three new SPERI Briefs published today

The Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute has today published a new three-part series of British Political Economy Briefs on child food insecurity in the UK. Together, the briefs, co-ordinated by SPERI Research Fellow Dr Hannah Lambie-Mumford highlight the critical issue of children in the UK not having enough food to eat.

SPERI Brief 31 Children’s experiences of food and poverty: the rise and implications of charitable breakfast clubs and holiday hunger projects in the UK is by Hannah Lambie-Mumford and Lily Sims.

In the brief Hannah Lambie-Mumford and Lily Sims, Research Assistant at SPERI, draw attention to the rise of child feeding initiatives in light of rising food bank use among children and statistics on the number of children living in severely food insecure households in the UK. These initiatives include the provision of breakfast at breakfast clubs and holiday hunger initiatives, which provide lunch to children outside of term time in an attempt to make up for the lack of Free School Meals during holidays. Calls for the expansion of these programmes have been made, but largely in the absence of a critical review of the effectiveness of these types of programmes for alleviating child food insecurity.

The brief presents new findings from a scoping study of policy documents, academic literature, and websites of major child feeding providers. It highlights a shift in the positioning of Breakfast Clubs from a tool to promote education attainment and social inclusion to meeting the food needs of poor and hungry children. Evidence on the effectiveness of these programmes meeting their aims is patchy, limited and mixed. Breakfast club provision is operationally diverse, and holiday hunger provision is randomly provided on some days/weeks and only for a few hours when offered. Some studies on impacts of breakfast clubs on education, health, and social inclusion show positive effects, while some show no evidence of impact, and no studies have used direct measures of child food security to assess programme impacts on experiences of child hunger. Limited accessibility, unreliability, unaccountability and social unacceptability of child feeding programmes may ultimately limit their ability to address child food insecurity.

SPERI Brief 32 Family hunger in times of austerity: families using food banks across Britain is by Rachel Loopstra (Department of Nutritional Sciences, King’s College London) Hannah Lambie-Mumford and Ruth Patrick (School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool)

The authors analyse data from a survey of 598 households using Trussell Trust food banks across Britain. They examine how prevalent families with children are among households using food banks and identify characteristics that may make families with children vulnerable to food insecurity and the need to use food banks. Families with dependent children were over-represented in food banks, making up about 70 per cent of food bank families, but only 42 per cent of families in the general population. Data in the brief shows how it is lone parent families and larger families who are more likely to be using food banks. Among all households using food banks, it was households with children who were more likely to be in work compared to households without children.

Families receiving help from food banks had extremely low incomes and over 80 per cent of households with children were classed as severely food insecure. The authors highlight how the severity of food insecurity observed is a serious cause for concern for both health and social reasons.

SPERI Brief 33 Families and Food in Hard Times: rising food poverty and the importance of children’s experiences is by a research team at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education, led by Rebecca O’Connell.

O’Connell shares research from a mixed-methods study of food poverty and food practices of low-income families in the UK, drawing from interviews with 45 families with children aged 11 to 15 years old and secondary analyses of the UK’s Living Costs and Food survey over 2005 to 2013. In 2013, over half of households with children were spending less on food than the basic amount needed for a nutritious and socially acceptable diet that allows for social participation. Lone parent families with two or three children and couples with four children were the most likely to be spending less than what is needed on food. In general, for all family types, over 2005 to 2013, the proportion of families spending less than what is needed has been rising.

From qualitative interviews with 45 low-income families, O’Connell reports that just under half of parents reported skipping meals or eating less than they felt they should so that others could eat. But even though parents strove to protect their children from hunger, children from some of these families described their own experiences of hunger and how they would give up their own food intake to protect younger siblings or share with their parents. Despite experiencing food insecurity, only eight of the families had used a food bank in the past year. Though grateful for the help, food banks were described as difficult to access, not providing culturally appropriate food, and not providing enough food. Families also described the inability to participate in social occasions involving food and eating.

Dr Rachel Loopstra, Lecturer in Nutrition, King’s College London:

“Together, these three new SPERI briefs point to the current inadequacy of social policies to ensure that children and their families always have enough food to eat in the UK and that they can do so in socially acceptable ways. Households with children are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity in the UK, and these briefs highlight how it is single parents and families with a larger number of children that have very high levels of risk. These findings are concerning given that entitlements for lone parent families and larger families are going to reduce in years to come.

“As Lambie-Mumford and Sims highlight, whilst policymakers and campaigners have sought other ways to ensure that children experiencing food insecurity receive food, there is little evidence that child feeding initiatives address household food insecurity. O’Connell highlights that whilst school food can play a vital role in reducing, if not eliminating nutritional and social inequalities, Free School Meals in Secondary Schools can be insufficient to compensate for a lack of food at home and also shame children leading to social stigma and fragmentation. Together, our work suggests food insecurity amongst households with children could be addressed by ensuring that families always have sufficient amounts of income to purchase enough food to meet their family’s food needs. In contrast, policy changes being rolled out since 2017 to child tax credits and the benefit freeze may mean that families with children may experience increasing food insecurity and be forced to seek more help from food banks.”

23 March 2018 by
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SPERI’s Industrial Strategy Commission nominated for major award

We are delighted to report that the Industrial Strategy Commission, featuring SPERI’s deputy director Dr Craig Berry and associate fellow Professor Richard Jones, has been nominated for a prestigious Guardian University Award.

SPERI established the Industrial Strategy Commission in partnership with policy@manchester (University of Manchester) in early 2017. Craig and Richard were joined by Professor Diane Coyle and Professor Andrew Westwood, and independent chair Dame Kate Barker. The Commission’s final report, which helped to shape the UK government’s industrial strategy white paper, is available at: http://industrialstrategycommission.org.uk/.

The Guardian University Awards honour and promote excellence in higher education, across a diverse range of categories covering, among other things, the student experience, human resource management, and engagement with business and the public. The Commission has been nominated in Social and Community Impact category, with the winners set to be announced next month. For more information, visit: https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2018/mar/22/the-judges-decision-finalists-for-the-guardian-university-awards-2018.

The Commission’s work benefited from outstanding support from SPERI’s Tom Hunt (Secretariat) and policy@manchester’s Dr Marianne Sensier (Research Officer). The Commission is grateful also to Hannah Postles in the University of Sheffield’s media team, and colleagues at the University of Manchester, notably Alex Waddington and Alexis Darby.

22 March 2018 by
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Crisis in the Eurozone Periphery | New book published in SPERI Palgrave series

We are delighted to announce the publication of a further volume in the SPERI series ‘Building a Sustainable Political Economy: SPERI Research and Policy’ published by Palgrave Macmillan

Crisis in the Eurozone Periphery: The Political Economies of Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal, edited by Owen Parker and Dimitris Tsarouhas, investigates the causes and consequences of crisis in four countries of the Eurozone periphery – Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.

The contributions to this volume are provided from country-specific experts, and are organised into two themed subsections: the first analyses the economic dynamics at play in relation to each state, whilst the second considers their respective political situations. The work debates what made these states particularly susceptible to crisis, the response to the crisis and its resultant effects, as well as the manifestation of resistance to austerity. In doing so, Parker and Tsarouhas consider the implications of continued fragilities in the Eurozone both for these countries and for European integration more generally.

Owen Parker is co-leader of SPERI’s research programme on ‘European Capitalism and the Future of the European Union’ and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics. He has written widely on International Relations and European politics, is co-author of the prominent textbook Politics in the European Union, and has previously worked for the European Commission.

Dimitris Tsarouhas is Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at Bilkent University, Turkey and a Scientific Council Member of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) in Brussels. A former Jean Monnet Chair in European Politics, Tsarouhas has published extensively on European politics, public policy, and Greek-Turkish relations.

The book can be bought in hard copy or as an e-book here

2 March 2018 by
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New vacancy: Inclusive Growth Research Associate at SPERI

An exciting opportunity has arisen for a new Research Associate to join SPERI and work on our programme of research on inclusive growth.

Inclusive Growth Research Associate

SPERI’s research programme on inclusive growth aims to consider the multilevel dimensions of the inclusive growth agenda. Many so-called ‘left behind’ regions in advanced economies share similar economic and social characteristics and in recent years these shared ‘geographies of discontent’ have significantly contributed to political shocks which have had ramifications nationally and internationally. There is a significant opportunity for SPERI to help to develop a new research agenda that explores the links between the supra-national, national and sub-national effects of non-inclusive growth. Moreover, much of the academic and public policy discussion of inclusive growth has so far come from a social policy perspective.

We are seeking a new Research Associate with doctoral experience (or equivalent experience) of working on these kinds of issues. They will assist SPERI to establish a new political economy-focused research agenda on inclusive growth that better reflects the nature of the challenge at hand if growth in the UK and around the world is to be rendered more inclusive. The proposed research would also link to SPERI’s ongoing research focus on industrial strategy, the relationship between central and local policymakers and the devolution of economic policymaking powers.

The Research Associate will work closely with the Director and Deputy Director of SPERI and the existing SPERI team, to collaboratively design a research programme and will be expected to research and write academic papers, but also policy briefings, viewpoint pieces and blogs.

This is a full-time fixed-term post for 8 months at Grade 7 (£30,688 – £38,833 per annum)

Closing date for applications: 1st March 2018

For informal enquiries about this job, contact: Craig Berry, SPERI’s Deputy Director on craig.berry@sheffield.ac.uk

Applications are made through the University of Sheffield’s online jobs portal

19 February 2018 by
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