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Asian Political Economy Conference

Event Details

April 13, 2019 9:00 am-5:30 pm
April 14, 2019 9:00 am-2:30 pm

Gordon Hall

Room: 3rd Floor, Conference Room.

UMass Amherst Campus

Handicap access available
Free admission
Vamsi Vakulabharanam

Since the 1960s, the most profound and consequential change in the global economy has been the resurgence of Asia, first with the Japanese, East Asian and South East Asian miracles in quick succession followed by perhaps the even more consequential rise of the two giants: China and India. As a result, 21st century economic strength will undoubtedly continue to move inexorably to Asia.

As with most intellectual work, our thinking about this gigantic transformation remains resolutely behind the actual happenings in the world. Political Economy was born in Europe and sought to explain that epoch transforming moment. The categories and conclusions that were created had enormous purchase, but may not be wholly appropriate in the new century At another turn, we need to explore the new forms of growth and accumulation with fresh eyes. Moreover, unlike with the previous revolution, the Asian century is being formed in what may be a weak point in liberal capitalism following the political upheavals in Europe and the USA, thus far the dominant center. As a result, there is profound uncertainty as to the political forms that the current century will see as dominant. Finally, we are now deeply aware of the hardening planetary boundaries and its collision with the paths of growth being followed. The ways in which this key concern is managed by policy makers in Asia will be central to the survival of the planet.

Against this backdrop, we are launching the inaugural conference of the Asian Political Economy program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Political Economy Research Institute with a two-day conference aimed at scholarly engagement with these issues. We have scholars from the US as well as from Asia presenting their work on the following key problems that we think will dominate considerations of Asian Political Economy in the next decade or so.

• Surplus Labor and Structural Change: To what extent does the nature of structural change in Asian economies follow the Kuznets-Lewis process? How feasible or likely is it that Asian economies can continue to absorb surplus, manage their dualist economies and contend with the gale forces of automation?

• Climate Change and Planetary Boundaries: Given the terrifying narrowing of the window to take action against climate change, how might Asian economies, which are growing and becoming more carbon emitting, face up to the challenge of managing growth and poverty reduction while simultaneously limiting environmental damage?

• Urbanization in a new era: Asia is home to the largest number of new cities and the fastest growing cities in the world. The combination of these facts and the particular histories of the region suggest that the process of urbanization will be profoundly different from that experienced in the West. What new theories can best explain the particular features of Asian urbanization?

• Political Economy of Inequality (Class, Gender, Ethnicity, Caste etc.): While the first era of Asian resurgence saw inequality rising very slightly, the experience of the last two decades suggest that within country inequality is on the rise in Asia. Given the fact further, that these economies have structural and political features that co-evolve with growth and inequality and are not seen elsewhere (for example, the caste system in India, and the Hukou system in China), how can we theorize how interpersonal inequality (along the above-mentioned axes) shape and are shaped by the process of growth?

To this end, we organize this conference with a panel dedicated to each theme. At the end of the workshop, we hope to be able to generate useful and mineable ideas for further work over the years, and we will think of an edited volume or a special journal issue arising out of the proceedings of the conference.