Roundup: Political Economy

What is the nature of the relationship between politics and economics? How are our lives influenced by this intersection? These are questions that Mark Cassell’s Fall 2017 Political Economy course at Kent State University explored. Students significantly expanded existing articles and created new ones as part of their Wikipedia assignment.

The weaponization of finance refers to the use of sanctions and other withholding of economic power as part of foreign relations. It is a diplomatic strategy for negotiation that often doesn’t rely on military action. In US foreign policy, economic weaponization takes place by limiting other countries’ access to US banks and financial marketplaces. Financial weaponization is also used by the UN to effect political change. Sanctions are a particularly direct form of financial weaponization. They take the form of either trade sanction — excluding a country from import or exports markets — or or financial withholding — blocking of government assets and limiting a country’s access to worldwide markets. The moral consequences of economic weaponization are debated, as sanctions and other interventions can harm citizens of affected countries and potentially bring about human rights violations.

The brand new article on Principles of Political Economy by British political economist Thomas Malthus can tell you all about the famous political economy book written in 1820. In it, Malthus explains why European economic depressions occur and how price and value in fluctuating markets influence consumers. He also develops his concept of effective demand, which becomes important in Keynesian economics later on. He posits that consumers are influenced by a price of a good and decide to buy or not buy depending on that price. Malthus also argues that economies tend to move toward depression because productivity advances more quickly than demand.

Another new article, about the Minnesota Food Cooperative Wars, can tell you about co-op politics in the Twin Cities region during the 1970s. Conflict arose around differing opinions about what purpose these community groups should serve. A central point of contention was whether these organic-food-focused co-ops should have centralized organization or the decentralized approach that was popular at the time. One group pushing for a newly centralized approach, the Cooperative Organization (CO), proposed the co-op not only as a community-centered alternative to the grocery industry, but also as “a centralized force to unite the working class against the capitalist class.” Their emerging philosophy incorporated Marxist and Maoist ideology and clashed with typical co-op practices of the time. Soon the conflict escalated, with the CO violently seizing spaces run by competing co-ops. The wars came to a close by the early 1980s with the decline of the co-op scene. While there is a lingering stigma against co-ops among older generations in the area, Minnesota is still one of the states with the most food cooperatives in the United States.

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ImageFile:Maritime Fur Trade-WorldContext.pngPfly, GNU Free Documentation License, via Wikimedia Commons.


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