The Conference of Socialist Economists (CSE) was pioneered in the 1960s and 1970s by a group of heterodox economists who wanted to know why capitalism was flailing, reflected in the rise in inflation and the collapse of the Bretton Woods model. The first two conferences were held in 1970 and attracted wide ranging interest from people who were concerned about what internationalising capital would mean for people (see Hugo Radice ‘A short history of the CSE’ and Sol Piciotto ‘Ten years of Capital and Class’ published in Capital and Class).
I have served on the CSE’s journal Capital and Class Editorial Board since 2006 and on top of my regular duties that include coordinating and reviewing articles and scouting for good research to recommend for the journal, I published two articles in this journal in 2005 and 2009. I edited the Special Issue Parallel Visions of Peer Production with Athina Karatzogianni in 2009. I also commissioned the Special Issue on the Regulation Approach and the Contemporary Crisis edited by Charles Dannreuther and Pascal Petit after having been invited to speak at the COST-funded colloquium in Paris in November 2010 ‘Systemic Risk and Financial Crisis’. The journal became a Sage publication in 2010.
In that light, I decided to start up a network that can revive these debates that would mirror the CSE network I was involved with when I lived and worked in Manchester, the Transpennine network. As I have moved to the ‘south’ for my post at Middlesex University London, and in conversation with Hugo Radice, a long standing member of the CSE and who is active with the Transpennine Network, I organised and spoke at the Contemporary Conditions of Capital event last Friday 25/10/13. This was an important event because it marked the first of a hoped series of workshops run by members of this new CSE South Group, a network of critical scholars and activists who will come together to discuss the issues we face in the contemporary context of globalising capitalism. Nearly 50 people attended this event including people who were involved with the founding of the CSE, long standing Marxist researchers, activists and PhD researchers from all across the UK.
Martin Upchurch , long standing member of the CSE, began the event with his talk entitled The New Workplace Dystopia, discussing recently declining working conditions impacted by increasing workloads, the fitness to work scheme and the increase in zero hours contracts. I then spoke about the Quantified Self movement whereby people are using self monitoring devices to conduct life logging, self archiving, habit tracking, and other tools that are recently gaining interest from employers in finding a link between physical health and emotional and mental wellbeing with better productivity, particularly in the cognitive industries. Owen Worth, Managing Editor for Capital and Class, gave an overview of the CSE and the journal, and spoke about his recent publication Resistance in the Age of Austerity.
We then broke for lunch which was supplied by the journal Capital and Class and then reconvened for a stimulating roundtable we called Conditions of Capital. All speakers for the Roundtable are based as researchers and lecturers at the University of Middlesex in the School of Law and School of Business. Peter Hough asked, why are some issues accelerated in government policy, and not others, and in particular why not workers’ vulnerabilities such as those seen in recent factory disasters in Bangladesh that led to garment workers’ deaths? Elizabeth Cotton called for serious thinking about the role of the trade union in firefighting for mental health issues and the need for critical thinking about institutions’ provisions of wellness programmes. Eleonore Kofman reminded us that care work is not only a migrant issue and that the lack of clear protections can prevent full implementation of the R201 Domestic Work Recommendation and decent work. Clive Boddy then contributed to the discussions outlining the tendency for management to have ‘dark’ leadership tendencies of psychopathy.
The polemics and postulations emerging from these discussions really crystallised the urgency for this kind of network where people feel comfortable asking questions like, why are we still fighting for reasonable working conditions? What are governments going to do to stop matters from getting to the most deplorable and dystopian stage? The CSE’s journal, Capital and Class, is able to provide administrative and a stipend for catering if CSE members apply to run relevant events. Please contact me on Phoebe Moore p.moore at mdx.ac.uk and Chris Hesketh chesketh at brookes.ac.uk if you are interested in running an event in ‘the south’ that gives a space for people to talk about the conditions of capital today.