The need for rigorous interdisciplinary research on institutions emerged as the overarching theme of a half-day workshop on 15 June to launch Birkbeck’s new Centre for Political Economy and Institutional Studies. After a welcome from Prof. Sarah Hart (Assistant Dean, Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics) and Prof. Philip Powell (Dean of Business, Economics and Informatics and Vice-Master), Enterprise & Innovation, three distinguished guest speakers from the fields of economics, politics and criminology talked about the importance of institutions and political economy for their research.
Prof. Stephen Farrell (University of Sheffield) presented preliminary results from an ESRC funded project The Long-Term Impacts of Thatcherism. His evidence showed the scope and limits of historical institutionalism in explaining the Thatcher and Major governments’ shift towards more punitive approaches to crime.
Dr Waltraud Schelkle (London School of Economics) presented some of the key findings of her new book, The Political Economy of European Monetary Solidarity. The interplay between domestic and EU institutions rather than economic ideas, she argued, explains why the EU embraced regressive austerity policies in response to the global financial crisis.
Prof. Geoffrey Hodgson (University of Hertfordshire) argued for the importance of institutions in understanding international economic performance. Drawing on a range of examples from the economics literature, he discussed, the institutional drivers of China’s remarkable growth rates since the 1970s and the divergent growth trajectories of economies in Asia.
The audience brought together students and faculty from three Birkbeck schools with academics from other London universities and political economy practitioners.
To conclude the event, the co-directors of the Centre for Political Economy and Institutional Studies – Dr Luca Adriani (Department of Management), Dr Dermot Hodson (Department of Politics) Prof. Ron Smith (Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics), Dr Sappho Xenakis (Department of Criminology) – led a roundtable discussion about the origins and aims of the Centre and future activities and events.
This discussion covered the importance of political economy for Birkbeck’s 200th anniversary and the scope for cross-disciplinary teaching on political economy and institutions. The importance of the Centre for Birkbeck’s research environment was discussed along with the demand from government and private sector economists for a deeper understanding of institutions.
The event was sponsored by Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics and the School of Law.