Interview: “Connecting the Dots” Mini-Conference at SASE 2022
The mini-conference format at SASE annual conferences offers a unique opportunity to explore niche or specific topics that are not directly covered in SASE’s permanent networks. In preparation for the upcoming conference, I interviewed the organizers of the “TH01 – Connecting the Dots between Global Capitalism and National Capitalisms” mini-conference: Fulya Apaydin, Arie Krampf, Andreas Nölke, and Merve Sancak. This mini-conference will bring together theoretical and empirical papers building connections between the two great pillars of socio-economic research that have so far developed and evolved separately: Comparative political economy (CPE), and international political economy (IPE). In doing so, the mini-conference will also bring more attention to late industrializing countries—including middle-income and low-income countries—which are particularly suitable cases to explore these connections. In the following interview, the organizers told me about their goals and expectations in organizing this mini-conference, as well as their excitement about participating in an in-person SASE annual conference at last.
Interview conducted by Melike Arslan
First of all, could you briefly introduce yourselves in a few sentences? Your affiliations, main research interests, ongoing research projects, etc.
Merve Sancak: I am a Lecturer at Loughborough University London. My research sits in between CPE, IPE, and economic sociology, and I aim to understand how the dynamics in the global economy and national institutional/political structures intersect and affect firms and workers in late industrializing countries. My major work in this regard is my book Global Production, National Institutions, and Skill Formation, which looks at skill formation systems in Mexico and Turkey. Currently, I am working on a few projects that look at the interactions between the national and global, including one on the role of international migration in national employment systems.
Andreas Nölke: My home is Goethe University in Frankfurt, where I teach international political economy, with a focus on comparative capitalism/growth models, financialization, the Eurozone, and emerging economies. Most recently, I have published a book on Post-Corona Capitalism that documents how the pandemic has affected various issues in Comparative and International Economy.
Fulya Apaydin: I am an Assistant Professor at the Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals in Spain. Like my colleagues, my research sits at the intersection of CPE, IPE, and economic sociology. I am especially interested in the political underpinnings of capitalist market building in the Global South, paying special attention to how local actors respond to international pressures. My previous work explored the impact of new manufacturing technologies on labor mobilization in Turkey and Argentina, and I have published a book on this, entitled Technology, Institutions and Labor: manufacturing automobiles in Argentina and Turkey. Currently, I am interested in the link between financialization and regime survival trajectories in emerging market economies.
Arie Krampf: I am an Associate Professor at the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. Currently, I am a Visiting Professor within the Department of Government at Harvard University, where I teach Global Finance. My research focuses on the intersection between CPE and IPE. I am particularly interested in the impact of geopolitical issues, global hierarchies, and states’ external vulnerabilities on countries’ growth models. My recent works include a monograph on Israel’s Path to Neoliberalism and a paper about the US monetary power.
What do you think are some of the benefits of the mini-conference format for the presenters and the audience? Why did you choose to use this format in exploring the themes you proposed for the conference?
Krampf: A Mini-conference is an opportunity to have more focused panels. It brings together scholars who research roughly similar topics, but from different perspectives. It is an opportunity to make connections, which often evolve into common projects and cooperations.
Apaydin: We also would like to use this as an opportunity to initiate greater cooperation and intellectual exchange between scholars who work in CPE and IPE traditions. Building these new networks is more challenging via a single panel or even via a series of panels under a general conference format. By contrast, a mini-conference enables us to spend two days in intensive exchange, reading and discussing works that seek to bridge domestic and international dynamics.
Sancak: I agree with Arie and Fulya. In addition, I think the mini-conference format is particularly important for our theme, as there are not many platforms that bridge CPE and IPE research. We aim to create a platform that links these areas through the mini-conference and brings together researchers with similar concerns, fostering discussions that will complement one another.
Your mini-conference aims to bridge CPE and IPE traditions. What motivated you to propose this topic? Are there any connections between this theme and your own research projects/experiences?
Sancak: I think, in general, that both CPE and IPE researchers are trying to understand contemporary capitalism, but with limited conversation with one another. For example, in respect to my own research, studies looking at the development experiences of late industrializers (and firms and workers in these countries) examine either the role of national institutions or how these countries’ (subordinate) position in the global economic hierarchy (such as in global value chains) affect firms and workers in these countries. However, bridging these two approaches can help us to better understand contemporary capitalism. I try to do this in my recent book published by Oxford University Press, where I argue that global political economic pressures have influence in Mexico and Turkey, but that this influence is mediated by national institutions. I am also working with Gerhard Schnyder to bridge the IPE and CPE approaches for a better theorization of capitalist systems in late industrializing countries.
Nölke: Just to add one more example: the currently very vibrant debate on growth models demonstrates how fruitful a combination of CPE and IPE can be. On the one hand, this combination can provide IPE with a macroeconomic foundation; on the other, national growth models—particularly in emerging economies—can only be properly understood when we take their embeddedness in the international economy into account.
Krampf: CPE and IPE are linked because they are types of political economy and there are a lot of overlaps and spillovers. Nevertheless, the two sub-disciplines rest on different ontologies. The point of departure for most CPE scholars is the interests of domestic social groups and actors that seek to promote their preferences and shape the domestic growth model. Contrariwise, the point of departure for IPE scholars—at least some of them—is systemic: states are shaped by the system and not vice-versa. Therefore, when you try to connect the dots and to create a bridge between CPE and IPE, you need to bridge two ontologies, two languages. This is, I think, the driver of our mini-conference.
Apaydin: I agree with my colleagues here—there is quite a lot of overlap, but I am under the impression that scholars who come from these different traditions often talk past each other. For CPE scholars, the focus is on understanding what happens inside the countries. For IPE scholars, global dynamics take precedence in their explanations. But these are not mutually exclusive. For example, take the recent works that problematize the political regime change in Turkey. Most of these studies that come from a CPE angle focus on domestic dynamics such as clientelism, crony capitalist relations between business and the incumbent, and neo-patrimonialism. Surely these are noteworthy dynamics, but it is also difficult to understand why these interest groups change their preferences if you do not pay attention to global economic and political pressures. In a forthcoming study with my co-author M. Kerem Coban, we seek to bridge these explanations and to account for this change by bringing CPE and IPE traditions together.
Your mini-conference also emphasizes the perspective of late industrializing countries. SASE has been trying to offer more space to research covering less advanced economies and the new editors of the Socio-Economic Review have reiterated this commitment in a recent interview on our blog. What are your thoughts on the importance of covering newly industrialized countries in socio-economic research? How do you think your mini- conference contributes to these efforts at SASE?
Apaydin: It is true that the experience of the Global North does not exactly replicate across the countries in the Global South. Even within the Global North, the experience with capitalist market formation is not a linear process, and we know that there is a great deal of variation due to both supply-side and demand-side dynamics. Our goal here is to put the spotlight on newly industrializing countries and emerging markets not only because they are part of the global supply chains, but also because the experience of these countries presents an immense opportunity to understand the mechanisms through which national capitalisms evolve as they respond to the crises of global capitalism.
Nölke: Let me take another example from the discussion on growth models. Theories that claim to situate the location of economic growth cannot be fully convincing unless they study the global regions where most growth during the last three decades has taken place—i.e., emerging economies. Extending research to emerging economies considerably enlarges the number of cases in which these theories can be tested.
Krampf: I think there have been some changes, but we still have a long way to go in bringing the periphery into the center. Not long ago the common assumption was that theories and models are produced based on the experience of advanced—usually European—cases, and that scholars from the periphery should take those theories and implement them in peripheral and semi-peripheral cases. This type of division of labor undermined our capacity to understand the interaction between advanced and late-developing countries.
The world economy has an interconnected structure. If you want to understand the center, you must also understand the periphery. And the periphery—newly advanced states, emerging economies, and developing economies—does not follow the same logic of action as “old Western” economies. We need to study the periphery not only because it is “interesting” but also because we cannot understand how the world works without understanding the periphery.
Sancak: I think “connecting the dots” between the IPE and CPE is particularly important for late industrializing countries. Not only because these countries have institutions of their own, which are developed through unique historical political processes, but also because they have distinct relationships within the global economy. Their later industrialization has an important influence on both their national institutions and their position in the global economy. Additionally, late industrializers/countries in the Global South make up the majority of the world’s population. However, most articles in prominent journals, generally speaking, are built on empirical research from and theorization about early industrializers/countries in the Global North. Burak Tansel and I show this empirically for IPE journals in our forthcoming article. Because of this, I think it is crucial to provide more platforms devoted to the study of late industrializing countries. This mini-conference is an important step in this regard.
What are the planned sessions of the “Connecting the Dots” mini-conference? How do you see the papers in these sessions speaking to one another? Could you give us some examples?
Nölke: In each panel, we have paper proposals that complement one another in important ways. For example, in our panel on social blocs at the intersection of national and international capitalism, we have a number of papers studying the impact of a prominent role of foreign direct investments—or an absence of these investments—on the formation of domestic social blocs, with insights from different global regions. Similarly, our panel on finance compares the intersection of national and global capitalism in different regions, including Eastern Europe and Turkey, via papers covering across emerging economies.
Sancak: Additionally, I can say that our mini-conference attracted many high-quality paper proposals, which attests to the desire to discuss IPE & CPE research conjointly. We organized our panels in a way that focuses on key topics for understanding contemporary capitalism from the point of late industrializing countries: we dedicated two panels to a general theoretical discussion about connecting the dots between global capitalism and national capitalisms, followed by panels focusing on specific subjects that help us to understand the linkages between global capitalism and national capitalisms including finance, labor, trade, and political parties & social blocs.
What do you hope will be the main takeaways for the audience attending the mini-conference? How do you see this conversation you have started developing in the future?
Apaydin: We hope that the participants in the audience are inspired to carry the discussion forward and/or to do more work at the intersection of CPE/IPE if not on similar questions. We live in a world where it is nearly impossible not to be affected by major global events such as climate change, the war in Ukraine, and/or economic crisis. It is my sincere wish that our discussions inform future research to understand how these challenges influence political and economic decision-making in newly industrialized and emerging market economies.
Sancak: I think the discussions in our panels can help to develop a more nuanced understanding of contemporary capitalism, including its politics and impact on people and the planet, which considers domestic and global political, economic, and societal dynamics and power imbalances. The studies within the Regulation School and growth models literature have been partially doing this. I hope that there will be more studies in the future, both theoretical and empirical, that consider the national and global dynamics.
Nölke: Another important long-term target of our mini-conference is to bring more people from International Political Economy into SASE. SASE has very good CPE discussions, but could benefit from more interactions with people working on global cooperation and other typical IPE issues.
Krampf: I agree with the points mentioned by my colleagues. Bringing IPE scholars to SASE is a very desirable outcome. I also hope that the conference might persuade European and North American scholars that they can learn from cases in late-developing countries.
Lastly, after a long, two-year break from in-person conferencing, SASE 2022 will take place in person in Amsterdam. That means more opportunities for scholars to meet each other over coffee and lunch breaks, and to connect with one another outside of the official sessions. How do you feel about reconvening in-person? What are the advantages of an in-person mini-conference compared to an online one?
Nölke: Actually, I can only congratulate SASE on the location, the nature, and the timing of the conference—and also on the decision to make additional space available! I cannot remember any other professional meeting with so many colleagues in eager anticipation.
Apaydin: I am thrilled to have this opportunity to personally connect with and get to know scholars whose research is driven by similar concerns. The advantages of this are numerous: participants can interact with each other outside the conference room, informal conversations may lead to collaborative projects, random encounters may spark new research ideas… At the same time, I know that being able to participate in such an event—in person—is possible due to my position of privilege. I live and work in a country that has provided me with resources that enable my participation in Amsterdam. On the other hand, most of our colleagues who work on the core questions that inform our mini-conference are located in countries that do not provide similar opportunities. Even those who have resources are facing problems related to visa access and are unable to travel here so easily. While hybrid conferences are not perfect, I hope that we can welcome a greater number of colleagues virtually and in person as part of this exchange in the future.
Sancak: Having an in-person conference will be an absolute treat after being stuck in our homes, in front of various sorts of screens for over two years. However, I think the pandemic has also shown that digital communication platforms can be used for creating more inclusive methods of academic knowledge exchange. I would also support more hybrid ways of conferencing not only for those with visa restrictions, but also for those with family commitments or disabilities.