The “Costs of Capitalism” Crisis and the role for Critical Political Economy

CPERN mid-term workshop – Call for Papers (deadline 28 February 2023).

Thursday 8 – Saturday 10 June 2023

University of Naples “L’Orientale”, Naples, Italy

With support of the Department of Political Sciences of the University of Campania “L. Vanvitelli”

The global political economy is experiencing a rapidly spreading “cost of living crisis” – but which is far better understood as a “costs of capitalism crisis”. These costs of capitalism go far beyond rising energy prices, rising inflation, and disruption to supply chains. Rather than a merely technical supply-chain problem or a disruption to trade relations and diplomacy, instead, we are experiencing a global, interconnected and multi-form crisis, the effects of which are being materially, corporeally and socially felt ever more urgently, in a way that is inescapable for any section of the global population. In our next CPERN mid-term workshop, we seek to better understand these interconnected ‘costs of capitalism’. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian war have exacerbated the unaffordability of basic goods and services and accelerated climate change and ecocide; in the long term, it is capitalism that we cannot afford. 

We see a decline in real wages and loss of livelihoods for the global working class as a whole. This sits alongside devastating climate change and mass displacement,  accumulation by dispossession, collapsing public services and public health systems, the ongoing tightening of restrictions on democratic rights, a further breakdown of international cooperation, exacerbation of population surveillance with implications for workplaces and movement across borders,  and the continued election to office of far-right and neo-fascist parties. The political elites and corporate media search incessantly for scapegoats to blame – be it foreigners, the ignorant working class, or asylum seekers and migrants.  Rather than playing a blame game which pitches people against one another, we instead seek dialogue that can apply an analysis of the current crisis that reveals the causes and costs of capitalism. 

These “costs of capitalism” require an intellectual, analytical and conceptual framework through which to understand and explain; in order to change it.  This is the role of critical political economy, which we seek in our next mid-term workshop to develop, explore, and apply to the current crisis. 

We invite scholars and activists from across the field of critical political economy to contribute to the next CPERN mid-term workshop, to delineate, explain, understand the multiple elements of the current ‘costs of capitalism’ crisis, and to develop a scholarship that works with those social forces with the capacity to disrupt, resist, transform and transcend the current, and to build a better world beyond capitalism and its never-ending crises.

We are especially keen for papers that address the following themes:

  • The materiality of the crisis of neoliberal ideology. The unaffordable ‘cost of living’ on planet earth experienced by a rapidly growing number of increasingly vulnerable populations is the material symptom of neoliberal ideology and its ecocidal productivist fetishism. How do those materialities manifest themselves? How are they embodied?
  • The crisis of public health in the wake of the pandemic. The pandemic has accelerated existing health inequalities globally, from vaccine apartheids, including the inability of governments to remove vaccine patents, to the increased threats on public health systems around the world. The creeping in of privatisation together with an expansion of for-profit healthcare investors is forcing many healthcare workers to strike. 
  • The continued rise of fascism? Fascism globally is on the rise; it is at its most overt since WWII and it is taking on new forms. What is behind those phenomena? How can we understand them, describe them, combat them? Especially in the context of reinvigorated nationalism and regionalism, and the normalisation of authoritarianism? 
  • Where next for financialisation? There is a mountain of debt upon which the global political economy rests. Now that interest rates are rising, and the austerity agenda is once again on the table, there is a very  real risk that these are highly shaky foundations. What next? Will we see a repeat of the global financial crisis? Is there a space for a global debt justice moment?
  • Workers and the costs of capitalism. How are workers impacted by the multiple contemporary global crises faced? The tensions within a global division of labour is exacerbated by tightening migration restrictions, supply chain issues around intensified race-to-the-bottom corporate manoeuvres, restructures and mass layoffs, the collapse of big tech companies, blatant labour arbitrage in platform and digitalised work environments, and a dramatic and rapid rise in worker monitoring and surveillance in all sectors after the pandemic has normalised these patterns. How has the rise in working from home (WfH) impacted people’s livelihoods? What protections are there for digitalised workers? What psychosocial and safety and health risks do workers face as they continue to bear the brunt of the costs of capitalism?
  • Alternatives and resistance. Is the so-called cost of living crisis being met by a new wave of class struggle and non-capitalist experiments? What are the chances of success? Are trade unions back with a bang, or a whimper? Can prefigurative solidarity economies create meaningful alternatives to the capitalist market? What forms and networks of international solidarity are emerging? Are digital solidarity networks the solution for the advancements of far right authoritarian pursuits?  
  • De-coupling as a cost of capitalism?  There is plenty of talk these days about ‘decoupling’ as global supply chains are affected by growing tensions in trade and post-pandemic disruption. Are we witnessing a resurgence of national protectionism in this new phase of global capitalism? What are the effects and implications of this? And where can we see struggles for economic sovereignty that reject and transcend regressive notions of decoupling in favour of international solidarity?
  • The Costs of Capitalism in the Global South. How are the divisions, and relations, between the Global North and South affected and changing during the post-pandemic period? What are the deep intersectional dynamics of those divisions and relations? 
  • Intersectional struggles of capital and labour. How do (changing) struggles, expressed along class, race, colonial, sexed, and gendered lines, intersect with each other, and within the global political economy? Are there emerging areas of intensification of racism and discrimination emerging within the symptoms of the costs of capitalism?
  • Social reproduction. How are the already-strained means of social reproduction changing? How does social reproduction interact with the constitutive inequalities of capitalism and what sources of hope, if any, do they offer?
  • Climate devastation, resistance, and future-making What is the space for solidarity and internationalism in the fight against ecocidal capitalism and its costs? How do and how can we resist the latter? What alternative economic and social models shall be built? What space is there for a noospheric world to emerge?   
  • The critical political economy of geo-politics and militarism. The geo-political tensions that continue to destabilise our world are often neglected by political economy analyses. Yet capitalism and geo-political rivalries are interconnected and require a critical political economy analysis. What recent, historically rooted manifestations of that interconnectedness can help us better understand those rivalries and do away with them? 

We are interested in all of the above, and more, and wish for the workshop to cover a wide range of topics. We welcome scholars and activists with an interest in critical political economy, from a variety of countries, social backgrounds, and disciplinary affiliations, regardless of whether they are in academia or not. We are particularly committed to promoting the participation of PhD students, early career scholars, and activists. Limited funds will be available for scholars and activists in precarious situations (who cannot get other sources of funding) to support travel and accommodation costs. Please inform us if you may require help with funding when you send us your abstract.

The workshop is planned for in-person attendance, as far as that is possible. If you are unable to attend in-person, let us know and we will try to facilitate online participation.

As a result of our links to the new journal Global Political Economy we also welcome, and will gladly facilitate, panel submissions where the intention is for the panel to result in a special issue proposal for the journal. 

We will be able to provide workshop invitation letters for those needing a visa.

There will be a small fee for attending the workshop, to cover the costs of tea/coffee. The conference language will be English.

Abstracts of around 250 words should be submitted to: by 28 February 2023.

Many thanks,

The CPERN mid-term workshop 2023 organising committee

David Bailey, Bernd Bonfert, Adriano Cozzolino, Phoebe Moore, Owen Worth, Yuliya Yurchenko, Gemma Gasseau, Davide Monaco, Pietro Masina 

The Critical Political Economy Research Network is Research Network 06 of the European Sociological Association.