BISR Political and Social Theory Seminar: Political economy for the 21st century

Starts 02 May 2017 - 16:30
Finishes 02 May 2017 - 18:00
Venue Birkbeck, University of London. Paul Hirst Seminar Room (102), 10 Gower Street, London WC1E 6HJ
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BISR Political and Social Theory Seminar: Political economy for the 21st century

Speaker: Dr Dave Elder-Vass, Loughborough University, UK 

Chair: Dr Jason Edwards, Birkbeck, University of London

Despite their differences, both mainstream economics and Marxist political economy see the contemporary economy as a thoroughly capitalist market system built primarily on wage labour and commodity production. Yet these approaches ignore vast swathes of the economy that do not fit with their stylised models and consequently obscure them from view. This is not a new problem, as attested for example by feminist attention to the household economy, but it has moved more sharply into focus due to the proliferation of innovative economic forms in the growing digital economy. To take only the most obvious examples, Wikipedia and to a lesser extent open source software embody a modern economy of the gift, while sites like Facebook and YouTube depend on the unpaid contribution of user created content to sustain profit-oriented businesses. The old models are inadequate, not only for explaining how such forms work, but also for evaluating them in ethical and political terms.

My book Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy (Cambridge UP, 2016) draws on resources from a variety of social science disciplines to build a new framework for analysing and evaluating diverse economic systems. In this framework, each economic form is understood as a complex of appropriative practices – social practices that influence the allocation of benefits from the process of production. We can explain how each form operates by analysing the practices involved and the tendencies generated by their interaction. I will make the case for this argument and illustrate it using the case of Google’s free web search service.


Free event open to all - If you wish to attend, please email Jason Edwards.

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