IPEG@40: 40 years of IPE and counting…

Short post here (My post may get shorter as the new academic year approaches…)

This week, I attended the International Political Economy Group (IPEG, pronounced as I-PEG) annual meeting at Warwick University which was extremely special given that this year marked 40 years since the discipline of International Political Economy was founded by Susan Strange (see What is IPE? for an introduction to IPE and a short background to Strange). It only attended Day 2 of the workshop (the whole schedule is here) mostly because of the theme. Yes, Susan Strange is the mother of IPE but I wasn’t really trained with Strange’s stuff on markets, states, casino capitalism that sort of thing.

Anyway, Day 2 was a good pick as the First speaker was none other than Geoffrey Underhill. A renown IPE academic, he’s most well known for his book, Political Economy and the Changing Global Order (with many new editions) and now a Professor at the university of Amsterdam. He brought up a very engaging history of IPE and his journey and challenges in IPE. Some highlights include: IPE should not be a subset of IR (which I fully agree with), IPE looking back at Classical Political Economy (that was how I was I enter IPE, a la Matthew Watson), IPE encompasses many disciplines but should be an independent field, IPE scholars should have a broader coverage than IR scholars and also, the classic trans-Atlantic IPE divide: the classic debate started by Benjamin Cohen, counter by Richard Higgot and Matthew Watson and John Ravenhill and re-joined again by Cohen–all of this cna be found in the Review of International Political Economy. Professor Underhill also mentioned some four majro points but I failed to take down all the details.

Next came a panel titled, “Reflections on the knowledge structure”. This was entirely new subject area to me but it was educational covering areas that I didn’t expect to be part of IPE such as energy security. Following that was another presenter looking the history of IPE and her journey through the discipline–Professor Nicola Philips. She mentioned several arguments that were close to what Professor Underhill made but she also argued that IPE scholars should also deconstruct the debates within the sub-topics of IPE. She also mentioned stuff such as critical IPE and “Rising Powers” (middle-income countries.

After lunch was a panel titled, “Reflections on the production structure”. This was still something new to me but the speakers less so. I knew Phoebe Moore, who presented her books on labour institutions, through the British International Studies Association (BISA) Manchester conference. Simon Glaze, who argued about digging back into Adam Smith and William James to find the roots of IPE was a former PhD Researcher at Birmingham and one of the seminar tutors during my first year, although he didn’t teach me. Matthew Watson was in fact Glaze’s supervisor and it was he who brought me up with Classical Political Economists such as Smith but not William James, who is new to me.

The final panel (correction: Matthew Watson didn’t present, it was someone else) was on the same theme, entering into IPE fields that were more familiar to me such as migration. Matthew Bishop from the University of the West Indies gave a unique argument about Caribbean IPE, indicating that there are wider perspectives than the “mainstream” IPE–British and American or Western IPE. That also means that no one has bothered to forge Asian/Pacific IPE. Incidentally, during the IPE module taught by Colin Thain last year, he also brought up the proposal of drafting a non-Western IPE. Hmmm…

The last part was a roundtable discussion by four (not three as in the web link) major IPE academics who are also editors of IPE publications. Nicola Philips edits the New Political Economy journal, Ronen Palan is one of the editors of the Review of International Political Economy (RIPE), Rorden Wilkinson who published many books on trade and edits the Global Institutions series by Routledge and Leonard Seabrooke who also is a co-editor of the RIPE journal. By this time I was quite lethargic to note down what was mentioned by this fantastic quartet but their input was amazing.

Heading home, I had several thoughts. One, IPE is indeed a young discipline but one of a very unique and relevant stature and definitely covering a wider depth than typical political economy and definitely International Relations. Two, while I’m part of IPEG and IPEG in the UK has been well established, IPE itself is still not a widely taught field–definitely not taught at undergraduate level in some of the world’s top universities/colleges.  Third, IPE can cover many disciplines–as I found out through this IPEG conference. And that is what I’m trying to do in my thesis…


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