29th February 2012

“Contesting Markets”: Special issue of JAPE just out

The latest issue of the Journal of Australian Political Economy (JAPE) is a special issue on ‘Contesting Markets’. It contains 11 articles looking at the social foundations of markets and at the problems of relying on markets as the principal focus of economic activity. This critical political economic perspective challenges neoclassical theory, with its narrow view of markets as the be-all-and-end-all of economic activity. It is also a challenge to neoliberalism which promotes reliance on market principles at the expense of social and ecological concerns.  The articles look at case studies, such a prison privatisation, public utilities and delivery of human services, as well as broader theoretical issues about how markets are to be understood. Topics include the power of corporate business, the extension of markets into everyday life, and the marketisation of land and the environment.

My own article is titled ‘The Practical Heart of Markets’. What is it about the involvement of commercial insurance in the relations between the poor, their dead and their children that provoked sustained, almost neurotic, anxiety about the poor’s capacity to sustain proper familial feeling amidst market relations? This article suggests that funeral, ‘life-of-another’ and child insurance policies not only raise the stakes in the delicate balance between market calculation and moral hazard but also reveal something about the peculiar, mathematically limited and opportunistically versatile, character of human calculation.

The full table of contents is available here.