13 May 2016
Economy & Society Summer School
Week long residential summer school hosted at a medieval castle in a beautiful rural setting. Staff from Ireland and International Visitors deliver plenaries, focused reading groups and panel discussions on topical themes.
Tom Boland and Ray Griffin (Waterford Institute of Technology)
The school is tailored to Ph.D researchers in Economics, Social Sciences and Humanities.
Conceiving the economy as separate from society is problematic; theoretically, politically and morally. An economy is not simply an assemblage of law-like forces of production, consumption and market valuation which provides society with a material foundation. Rather, the ‘economy’ is a set of human institutions which are created socially, transformed through history and open to revision. Furthermore, far from being ethically-neutral laws of nature, economic processes have profoundly moral consequences for our society; for instance, in the growth of alienation, environmental degradation, inequality, hyper-individuation and the loss of meaning, hope and political alternatives.
Recent decades have seen the predominance of neo-liberal economics, which insists that human nature is fundamentally self-interested, and therefore the only institution which can fairly decide the value of anything is the market. Indeed, states have increasingly been caught up in this logic, deregulating existing markets, opening up new areas to the market principle, and turning the welfare state into an adjunct to the labour market.
The diffusion of these theories, from the academy to policy makers, politicians, journalists, teachers and the polity at large, is problematic: Firstly, this is only one perspective within economics, often backed with invocations of mathematical certainty, yet making vast assumptions about human nature. Secondly, there then appears to be no alternative, with the state as the mere hand-maiden of the productive market, and society as palliating the suffering of those left behind. Thirdly, ethical questions become relegated to private morality, as all public questions must be concerned strictly with utility, efficiency and cost effectiveness. Finally, activities which are the very fabric of society, caring for children or the elderly, community engagement and volunteering, contributing to public debates and criticism, creativity in arts, music or literature are subjected to the market evaluation of the ‘bottom-line’; nothing has intrinsic value.
Thus, the school attempts to understand the impact of economic processes on society, and to diagnostically investigate the values and ideas which motivate and animate the modern world. Beyond analysis and criticism, the school challenges its participants not just to produce excellent research, but to consider the ‘moral foundations’ upon which a better economy and society could rest, drawing carefully from the past and re-imagining the future more hopefully.
EUR 300: Covering attendence at the summer school, accommodation, food, drink and entertainment.