[OPE] "Reinventing Caribbean Political Economy" conference

From: jerry_levy@verizon.net
Date: Thu Feb 21 2008 - 08:28:52 EST

>From URPE-Announcements list.

Subject: Conference: "Reinventing Caribbean Political Economy"

The 9th Annual Conference of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) 
March 26–28, 2008


"Reinventing the Political Economy Tradition of the Caribbean"

A Conference in Honour of Norman Girvan


The political economy tradition of the Caribbean was consolidated in the post-independence period when newly emergent states were searching to find their own route to development. The challenge then was for them to break with the colonial past and forge new policies that could enhance their economic autonomy, propelling them along a path of independent development. 

For Caribbean intellectuals this meant seeking, first, to understand the structure and workings of the Caribbean economy and its connectedness with the colonial economy and, second, to break or radically transform this relationship in a way that would serve the developmental goals of the region. Thus, much of the work of Caribbean political economists, including Arthur Lewis and the New World Group, was engaged with understanding the workings of the Caribbean economy. 

The international climate, with a tremendous influx of new states in Africa and Asia, and the consolidation of formerly independent states in Latin America, provided a rich ferment of ideas and hope for constructing a truly independent economic path for countries of the ‘South’. It was a fertile and permissive environment for the development of a home-grown Caribbean political economy. The New World Group’s intellectual explorations connected closely with the dependency school that emerged in Latin America, contributing to its richness.  Critical thought also drew upon the activism of the South, particularly the Non Aligned Movement and Group of 77, in seeking to transform the character of their relationship with the North, to one that was more beneficial to their development. 

This period, from the 1950s to the 1970s, was a productive one for intellectual output, which cemented the Caribbean’s place at the forefront of critical analytical thought. It witnessed the emergence of a number of intellectual luminaries whose contribution to critical thought is without question. This contribution includes Lloyd Best’s and Kari Levitt’s characterisation of the Caribbean colonial economic model as a ‘plantation economy’; Alister McIntyre’s identification of the region’s structural dependency, in both economic and intellectual terms; George Beckford’s attempt to understand the role of agriculture, both peasant and plantation, and the way in which their organisation served to maintain and exacerbate the cleavages between the two systems; and Norman Girvan’s analysis of the role of transnational corporations in the mining sector of developing countries in inhibiting their pursuit of industrial policy, as well as his advocacy of appropriate technological models for developing countries.

The Caribbean radical intellectual project, as with the other postcolonial projects of the time, collapsed in the wake of the debt crisis and the international financial institutions’ neo-liberal structural adjustment projects, to which many developing countries were subjected. This presaged the emergence of the WTO, which represented the expansion of the GATT project, both in terms of coverage, to include most developing countries, as well as in extending the breadth of liberalisation beyond goods to include services, trade-related investment and intellectual property. So, for countries of the South, the WTO’s emergence represented a radical transformation of the global political economy away from possibilities of autonomous development paths, or even paths pursued by the North in their bid for development. This presents a severely curtailed path of ‘development’ for countries of the South based on their ‘integration’ into the so-called ‘global economy’ within the framework of neo-liberalism.

The neo-liberal agenda also proceeds hand in hand with the globalisation project, which promotes the integration of the world in economic, social, technological and political terms in ways that reduce prospects for autonomous development strategies. The credibility of the development project, with its roots in modernisation theory, has suffered severely at the same time that multilateral institutions are projecting a one-size-fits-all development model. This model is based on the same foundational principles, but with even less of the previous flexibilities. The imperative for Caribbean intellectuals who maintain the goal of genuine economic and political transformation is to develop alternative models of development that challenge this new orthodoxy, while accepting the more fundamental critiques of the development model, but recognising that the scope for presenting alternative paths is severely curtailed by the present international political and economic system. 

This ninth conference of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), “Reinventing the Political Economy Tradition of the Caribbean”, proposes to take the work of Norman Girvan and his generation of intellectual thinkers as a point of departure for rethinking the political economy of the Caribbean. Norman Girvan is especially recognised for  the breadth and originality of his work and because of   his association with SALISES.  He remains one of a small group of academics from that period who continue an intellectual engagement with the current international paradigm, seeking to find spaces for the articulation of the development challenges of countries of the South, particularly the Caribbean region and its small states. In addition to his academic engagements and intellectual writing, Girvan has been involved at the centre of policy debates and action, with positions at the United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations (UNCTD), Jamaica’s National Planning Agency (now the Planning Institute of Jamaica), and the Association of Caribbean States as Secretary-General. His association with SALISES, which represents a merger between the UWI’s Consortium Graduate School of the Social Sciences (CGSSS) and the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), is manifold: he was Director of CGSSS from 1987 to1999, and became the first director of SALISES, after its merger with ISER in 1999. 

SALISES owes an intellectual debt to both parent institutions. ISER was home, at one period or another, to many of the region’s critical thinkers, including Lloyd Best, Alister McIntyre, M.G. Smith, Adlith Brown and R.T. Smith, as well as publisher of many of their works. In addition, some of these, particularly of the New World Group, have had a close association with CGSSS. These include Kari Levitt and Michael Witter. The CGSSS has provided the region with a generation of policy makers who are now key decision makers in leading national and regional institutions. Since its formation, SALISES has tried to honour these institutions through the quality of its graduate teaching and research. More particularly, it has held a conference each year, rotating among its three campuses – Mona, Cave Hill and St. Augustine – to contribute towards sustaining intellectual ferment. This conference takes on added significance as the University of the West Indies celebrates its 60th anniversary. For SALISES, 2008 is also an important milestone, as one of its founding institute, ISER, is as old as the university. The 2008 conference therefore presents an opportune moment to highlight the achievements of both founding institutes: the Consortium Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Institute of Social and Economic Research. The conference also provides the opportunity for SALISES to honour some of the region’s most outstanding thinkers: Lloyd Best, Kari Levitt, Havelock Brewster, George Beckford, and C.Y. Thomas.  There will also be an honour roll of all the major contributors to the development of ISER, the CGSSS, and SALISES.  

The conference themes mirror the main areas of Girvan’s intellectual engagement, spanning both his intellectual contributions which are multi-disciplinary, and his public service. It thus provides scope for the advancing of theoretical investigations into the core disciplines of the social sciences as well as for policy recommendations for governments. We invite participation from academics across the social sciences, practitioners in other institutions involved in formulating and implementing policy, and state and non-state actors. These various modes of intervention will be reflected in publications which emerge from the conference, including a peer-reviewed collection of intellectual papers as well as policy briefs to be presented to governments and regional organisations. 

·        The political economy of Caribbean external relations; and
·        The political economy of internally-centred development
(i) The political economy of Caribbean external relations

Political Dynamics

·        Relationships with IFIs and the WTO 
·        Small states: challenges of globalisation
Economic Dynamics

·        Dependency
·        Foreign investment and transnational corporations
·        The mineral sector in Latin America and the Caribbean  
·        Debt
Social Dynamics

·        Cultural globalisation

·        ICT dynamics

·        The digital divide (social and technological perspectives)

(ii) The political economy of internally-centred development
Political Context

·        Formal planning processes in the Caribbean state
·        Public sector reform processes in the Caribbean
·        the academic as public servant 
·        Reflections on popular planning
Economic Context

·        Regional economic integration 
·        Production strategies
·        Building technological capabilities
Social Context

·        Empowerment and social development 
·        Community-based development 
·        The psychological and social dimensions of the political economy of Caribbean states
·        Health, family and migration in Caribbean political economy
·        Social vulnerability and marginalisation in the Caribbean political economy
·        Gender and development 
·        The cultural economy in the political economy
·        Building social consensus for internally-centred development.

The conference will contribute to the intellectual tradition of the university. A concerted effort will be made to ensure that peculiarities of the Caribbean are taken into account. Participants from other Caribbean countries will be targeted and will be specially invited to present at the conference.  One of the aims of the conference organisers is to ensure that policy formulators and implementers participate actively in the conference. Members of regional organisations, e.g., Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Caribbean Development Bank, Regional Negotiating Machinery, are expected to contribute to the conference proceedings. 


An important tradition of SALISES annual conferences is the publication of the peer-reviewed papers presented at the conference.  In addition to the academic publications, policy briefs will be prepared using relevant findings from the presented papers. These briefs will be prepared after the conference and will be provided to policymakers. The Alumni Association of CGSSS and SALISES will also be launched at the conference. The Alumni Association is expected to an important supportive arm of SALISES. Some of the aims of the Alumni Association are: (1) mentorship of students of SALISES; (2) research support to the current research fellows of the institute; and (3) creation of a think tank on the social, economic and political processes in the Caribbean. A scholarship fund for students will also be one of the Alumni Association’s contributions to the institute.


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