Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/

Call for Papers: From Economic Rationalism to Global Neoliberalism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2016 - 3:49pm in

From Economic Rationalism to Global Neoliberalism?

A Workshop for Early-Career and Postgraduate Researchers

RMIT, Melbourne, Fri 2nd December, 2016

Hosted by The Australian Sociological Association’s (TASA) Sociology of Economic Life thematic group and Centre for Applied Social Research, RMIT


Pusey bookThis year marks the 25th anniversary of Michael Pusey’s seminal text of economic sociology, Economic Rationalism in Canberra. Pusey’s book helped instigate a national conversation and publicised the concept of ‘economic rationalism’. It was ranked by TASA as one of the 10 most influential books in four decades of Australian sociology and described by The Age as a ‘celebrated analysis of how economic rationalism came to dominate policy making in Canberra’.

Today, the idea of ‘neoliberalism’ has entered into widespread use in the academy, society and social movements, evoking many of the free market, anti-statist notions critiqued in Pusey’s work. Despite short-lived claims that the 2008 global recession would bury neoliberalism, the politics of free markets and austerity seems as dominant as ever, in Australia and globally. Moreover, scholarship and debate about neoliberalism has exploded in the last quarter of a century.

In this context, this workshop offers a chance for emerging scholars undertaking studies of neoliberalism and economic rationalism, as it manifests in Australia and globally, to present their research at a day-long event in Melbourne. Held the day after TASA’s annual conference in Melbourne, this workshop will offer Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students and Early-Career Researchers (i.e., within five years of their PhD award) the chance to present their research in a supportive environment of peer-to-peer discussion and mentorship from leading scholars, including Michael Pusey who will read papers and provide extensive feedback.

We invite abstracts of 100-150 words and a brief (i.e., 50 words or less) biographical note, which should include reference to your HDR/ECR status. Authors of accepted abstracts will be asked to submit full papers of between 4000-7000 words (double-spaced) including tables, notes and references. We welcome research that focuses on any aspect of neoliberalism or economic rationalism within sociology as well as cognizant disciplines such as political science, political economy, geography, etc. Accepted papers will receive critical feedback by a senior scholar (who will also act as discussant) and at least one ECR/HDR peer at the workshop. Authors of accepted papers are expected to make a brief presentation of their paper at the workshop.

We plan to submit selected papers as a special section for the Journal of Sociology or a similar journal in the field (where they would be subject to the normal refereeing process). Please note that, as we cannot offer financial subsidies for participants, we particularly encourage those presenting papers at the 2016 TASA conference to submit papers for this workshop. (Note that TASA conference abstracts are due by 17th June, 2016 – for details, visit

Authors of accepted papers will be expected to be available for the full day of the workshop. We welcome papers exploring the following, and other, topics and questions related to the theme of the workshop:

  • What is the nature of economic rationalism and neoliberalism today, in Australia or elsewhere?
  • Are economic rationalism and neoliberalism the same thing?
  • Should we understand contemporary economic policy making as a form of zombie economics?
  • Is the term ‘neoliberalism’ useful?
  • Is there a distinctively Australian variety of neoliberalism?
  • How has the nature of the market, individuals, and society changed since the late 1970s?
  • What are the implications of relying on markets and money to measure values? What happens to values when they are translated into a form that is legible to markets?
  • Have economic rationalism and neoliberalism been successful? In what ways?
  • Is it correct to argue that neoliberal economic reform represents a political project that shifts income and power to corporations and elites?

Please submit abstracts, following the specifications above, to or (co-conveners of Sociology of Economic Life thematic group, TASA) no later than Mon 27th June, 2016. (Authors of accepted abstracts will be asked to submit full papers for peer review within approx. 2-3 months of notified acceptance.) If you have questions, feel free to contact us.

The post Call for Papers: From Economic Rationalism to Global Neoliberalism? appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

#TASA2015 and the Case for Political Economy in Our Sociological Imagination

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/02/2016 - 8:30am in

In 1959, C. Wright Mills coined the term ‘sociological imagination’ to illustrate how sociologists can provide unique insight via a broad analysis of the social. Via this critical process, we can remove ourselves from everyday life, seeing the social in the personal. The 2015 TASA (The Australian Sociological Association) conference focused on neoliberalism and how it has affected the Asia-Pacific. Through stepping back and thinking “ourselves away” from the milieu, we approached this problem via many sociological frameworks that addressed a variety of structural, agential, empirical and theoretical topics. However, over the course of the conference, I could not help but notice a succinct trend within each of the presentations. Despite the diversity of the lenses being used to view the issues at hand, we were mostly discussing the systemic problems of a late modernity that overly favoured elite interests and economic rationalities.

Let me explain this via some examples. First, Professor Eva Cox opened the conference powerfully with her message of hope and rebellion, arguing we need to underscore the social in the social sciences in Australia and calling sociologists to participate in a more critical role in this time of curtailing choices and truncated meaning. To address worsening social inequality and fracturing futures, she suggests a return to big picture sociology that dares to visit what Jurgen Habermas calls utopian thinking (in a time where utopian thinking has been exhausted). We as sociologists have been robbed of utopia as an ideal – in other words, the dominance of neoliberal rationalism has seen us accept caveats and half-measures which represent the desires of Economic Human more than the needs of a civil society.

Second, in a session for the Cultural Sociology thematic group, several diverse topics were approached; however, it was the contemporary cultural framing of work that underscored how neoliberalist ideals have infiltrated career narratives. Dr Sarah James examined the popular idea that work needs to be ‘meaningful’ more than necessarily lucrative; and furthering this, Fabian Cannizzo studied how academics describe their work as being driven by ‘passion’ and their relationship with university management’s neoliberal imperatives.

Third, in a session for the vibrant Family, Relationships and Gender thematic group, Michelle Dyer discussed how international development discourse is strongly underpinned by neoliberal economic rationalisations. She studied how women’s empowerment in developing countries is presented as salvation for the entire nation – and how women are dually represented as victims and saviours. It is worthwhile looking at Nike’s as this campaign is an exemplar of Michelle’s argument. This mythos ignores the reality of gender relations in developing countries and also avoids any critical reflection how such campaigns are smokescreens for the wider structural issues such as the effects of unethical corporate practices.

What these presentations and topics have in common are the permeation of market ideals and rationality into the discourse of everyday life. Some of the papers, such as Michelle’s, examined the localised effects of neoliberalism in places such as the Solomon Islands; but also considered the wider international political economy of the problem. In this paradigm, tribal peoples grieve the loss of land, the loss of their cultural heritage and self as business buys what they see as valuable real estate for future profits and growth. Using our sociological imagination, we must consider the two very different worldviews and realise that the two ‘ways of seeing’ are incongruous. Furthermore, using political economy, we may also think of how current global power relations, economics and dominant norms feed into this problem. The perspective of subaltern peoples is drowned out by the drone of bulldozers logging their sacred forests. The profit motive is hegemonic and for now, it prevails. What is a sociologist to do?

The Sociology of Economic Life roundtable on the Thursday afternoon generated some practical answers and critical reflection upon some of these problems. Dr Tom Barnes addressed some dominant myths of neoliberalism and then, adding to this, Elizabeth Humphrys discussed how neoliberalism unfolded in Australia. Rather than being a product of the Right, in Australian contexts, neoliberalism emerged from the 1980s Labor government and the Unions with their Prices and Incomes Accord agreements, which gradually saw the introduction of economically rational ideals and a whittling down of labour. At the conclusion of the session, Dr. Dina Bowman provided an important perspective that we need to make ourselves available: to NGOs, to business, wherever sociology is needed.

I took a lot away from #TASA2015. I felt inspired and revitalised. My economic sociological Ph.D. work looks at how luxury consumption and economic inequality may interact. I lean towards critical theories and I unashamedly indulge in utopian thinking. I love William Morris’ ‘News from Nowhere’ and my copy of Marcuse’s ‘One Dimensional Man’ has been read more than a few times. I agree with Eva. We need to reconsider grand theory and sociology as activism. We need to think about political economy in our sociological analysis – because the neoliberal economic rationality is everywhere. As Fabian Cannizzo argues, it even saturates academic governance and the very work we do. In order for us to address the snowballing issue of neoliberalism encompassing and enlarging, we must see these problems as an urgent call-to-arms – to use our positions to make ourselves useful to society and to not shy away from challenging the status quo.

Thursday, 18 June 2015 - 2:12pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 18/06/2015 - 2:12pm in

On a whim, I decided to read C. Wright Mills' The Sociological Imagination, and am very glad I did. I had aquired - rightly or wrongly - an impression from textbooks that this was a pretty dry staking out of academic turf, bit it's actually quite a jolly table-thumping call-to-arms against bad academic practices and (for want of a better word) thinking. This exerpt is from a chapter taking the work of Talcott Parsons as its example, but it's not hard to think of many more examples one could point to since the book was published in 1959(!):

The basic cause of grand theory is the initial choice of a level of thinking so general that its practitioners cannot logically get down to observation. They never, as grand theorists, get down from the higher generalities to problems in their historical and structural contexts. This absence of a firm sense of genuine problems, in turn, makes for the unreality so noticeable in their pages. One resulting characteristic is a seemingly arbitrary and certainly endless elaboration of distinctions, which neither enlarge our understanding nor make our experience more sensible. This in turn is revealed as a partially organized abdication of the effort to describe and explain human conduct and society plainly.

When we consider what a word stands for, we are dealing with its semantic aspects; we we consider it in relation to other words, we are dealing with its syntactic features. I introduce these shorthand terms because they provide an economical and precise way to make this point: Grand theory is drunk on syntax, blind to semantics. Its practitioners do not truly understand that when we define a word we are merely inviting others to use it as we would like it to be used; that the purpose of the definition is to focus argument upon fact, and that the proper result of a good definition is to transform argument over terms into disagreements about fact, and thus open arguments to further inquiry.

The grand theorists are so preoccupied by syntactic meanings and so unimaginitive about semantic references, they are so rigidly confined to such high levels of abstraction that the 'typologies' they make up - and the work they do to make them up - seem more often an arid game of Concepts than an effort to define systematically - which is to say, in a clear and orderly way - the problems at hand, and to guide our efforts to solve them.

What he said.