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 7: A cultural political economy of competitiveness and the knowledge-based economy

Putting Culture in its Place in Political Economy

Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop


The previous chapter focused on the economic and political imaginaries and the institutional and spatio-temporal fixes characteristic of Atlantic Fordism en régulation and how these were undermined by their ‘constitutive outsides’. In other words, it focused on some imaginaries and structures that happened to have been selected and retained. It did not examine the initial variation in imaginaries oriented to post-war reconstruction nor, again, the transition period with its structural crises. This chapter switches perspective to consider the search for a plausible economic imaginary during the crisis in/of Atlantic Fordism and identifies the knowledge-based economy (KBE) as the imaginary that was eventually selected and translated into policies. However, illustrating the importance of retention too, it suggests that the KBE was not always retained and institutionalized as the basis for a stable post-Fordist accumulation regime. Instead, for economies undertaking a neoliberal regime shift, it was finance-dominated accumulation that came to prevail – even though no widely accepted economic imaginary explicitly advocated this.

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