It's a sign of the times that academia is increasingly joining the movement to think seriously about capitalism and what might replace it. While in earlier periods of crisis many scholars thought it their role to engage in this way, during the 'Third Way' Blair/Clinton years of the 1990s and early 2000s – when I was a student – academic critique and visionary thinking about our economic system seemed to have faded, and it took the 2008 financial meltdown to re-energise those discussions.
This summer, around 700 academics, activists and artists came together at the University of Lille to discuss the biggest questions about our global economy. Organized jointly by two political economy associations – AFEP and IIPPE – the theme of the conference overlapped with ourEconomy's aim to promote new thinking about how to create economies that deliver a good life for everyone while respecting our ecological limits. The conference title: 'Envisioning the economy of the future and the future of political economy'.
I took the opportunity to interview participants, together with the founder and coordinator of IIPPE's activist and artist stream, Matthias Kispert.
We began by asking: 'What's the problem with our economy today?' Here's what they said:
As well as diagnosing and explaining the interlocking crises we face, we also wanted to think about the transformations needed to tackle the problems with our economy. So the next question we asked was: 'How do we fix our economy?'
Lastly, we asked participants about economics as a profession and academic discipline. The last 40 years of economic restructuring – which has seen the concentration of wealth in the hands of multinational corporations, spiraling inequality and ecological devastation – has been accompanied by the rise of certain theories and ideologies that have been indispensable in the rolling out of the neoliberal agenda. These economic theories that have dominated academia don't always have much to do with reality.
Thankfully, they are now being challenged by initiatives like Rethinking Economics and D-Econ as well as associations like IIPPE, AFEP and CPERN. We asked, in our final video: 'What's wrong with our economic theories and how can we fix them?'
We want to thank the organisers of the conference and all the participants who agreed to be in our videos. It's important to have these opportunities to get together to develop new visions for economies that work for people and planet.