New political economy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the discipline. For the journal, see New Political Economy (journal).

New Political Economy (NPE) is a relatively recent sub-school within the field of political economy. NPE scholars treat economic ideologies as the relevant phenomena to be explained by political economy. Thus, Charles S. Maier suggests that a political economy approach: "interrogates economic doctrines to disclose their sociological and political premises [...] in sum, [it] regards economic ideas and behavior not as frameworks for analysis, but as beliefs and actions that must themselves be explained".[1] This approach shapes Andrew Gamble's The Free Economy and the Strong State (Palgrave Macmillan, 1988), and Colin Hay's The Political Economy of New Labour (Manchester University Press, 1999). It also guides much work published in New Political Economy, an international journal founded by Sheffield University scholars in 1996.[2]

Matthew Watson with Richard Higgott, in explicit response to Benjamin Cohen's approach, seek to move International Political Economy away from Cohen's division of the subject into American and British camps, and to promote their own vision of a 'New Political Economy'.[3] NPE, they propose:

  1. transgresses conventional social science boundaries;
  2. explicitly rejects the loaded connotations of the 'rigour' that Cohen espouses, as this engenders unhelpful methodological competition;
  3. resists the abstractionism of postmodernism in favour of the progressive principle that life might be made better.

This ‘new political economy’ attempts to combine the approach of the classical political economists (from Smith to Marx) with more recent "analytical advances". Authors adopting this approach include Gamble (1996),[4] Watson[5][6] himself, and a series of authors in the work edited by Higgott and Payne (2000).[7] The approach "rejects the old dichotomies – between agency and structure, between ideas and material interests, and between states and markets".[8] The approach seeks to make explicit the normative assumptions that lie behind its analysis, and to be a "hosting metaphor" that will encourage political debate about societal preferences. It considers that different levels of abstraction are needed to "deeply ground" work in historical, cultural and social detail, thereby fostering a 'real world' political economy able to explain the influence of social meanings - of both actions and objects - on economic choices.

Watson and Higgott argue that practitioners of this approach are gradually increasing in number. They note the prevalence of NPE not only among "Third World economic nationalists and academic critics of the neo-liberal policy agenda who find little comfort in the turn instead to anti-foundationalist theories associated with postmodernism", but also among many "mainstream" economists who have become disillusioned with neoclassical theory. In this second category they list Dani Rodrik (1998),[9] Paul Krugman (1999)[10] and Joseph Stiglitz (2002).[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Charles S. Mayer "In search of Stability: Explorations in Historical Political Economy", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987, pp.3–6.
  2. ^ cf: David Baker, "The political economy of fascism: Myth or reality, or myth and reality?" New Political Economy, Volume 11, Issue 2 June 2006, pp.227–250.
  3. ^ Richard Higgott and Matthew Watson (2008) "All at sea in a barbed wire canoe: Professor Cohen’s transatlantic voyage in IPE", Review of International Political Economy, 15 (1), 2008, 1-17.
  4. ^ Gamble, Andrew (1996) "The New Political Economy", Political Studies, 43 (3): 516-530.
  5. ^ Watson, Matthew (2005) Foundations of International Political Economy, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  6. ^ Watson, Matthew (2007) The Political Economy of International Capital Mobility, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  7. ^ Higgott, Richard and Payne, Anthony (2000) (eds.) The New Political Economy of Globalisation, Two Volumes, Aldershot: Edward Elgar.
  8. ^ Robert E. Goodin, Philip Pettit, Thomas W. Pogge (eds), A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, John Wiley & Sons, 2012, p. 167.
  9. ^ Rodrik, Dani (1998) Has Globalization Gone Too Far?, Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics
  10. ^ Krugman, Paul (1999) The Return of Depression Economics, London: Allen Lane.
  11. ^ Stiglitz, Joseph (2002) Globalization and Its Discontents, London: Penguin.