Towards a Cultural Political Economy
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Towards a Cultural Political Economy

Putting Culture in its Place in Political Economy

Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop

This fascinating volume offers a critique of recent institutional and cultural turns in heterodox economics and political economy. Using seven case studies as examples, the authors explore how research on sense- and meaning-making can deepen critical studies in political economy, illuminating its role in critiquing the specific categories, contradictions and crisis-tendencies of capitalism.
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Chapter 2: Cultural turns and beyond in political economy

Putting Culture in its Place in Political Economy

Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop


The cultural turn in political economy could well be interpreted as a cultural return. As noted in the Introduction, classical political economy, historical materialism, the German Historical School and ‘old institutionalisms’ included the cultural moment of political economy as a matter of course, and some, such as the German Historical School, privileged it in the guise of different ‘spirits’ of capitalism. As economics was reorganized as a specialized discipline, especially when linked to a commitment to formalization, semiotic topics were marginalized or abandoned. This chapter considers two examples of the survival of interest in ‘culture’ in political economy, in the work of Antonio Gramsci and the so-called Italian School in international political economy. We then examine some proposals, explicit or implicit, from different regulation schools and scholars on how to integrate discursive practices into the analysis of accumulation and its improbable regularization.

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