A recent special issue of Oxford Development Studies that I guest edited explores how new players from the Rising Powers (most notably China, Brazil and India) may challenge the global ‘rules of the game’ on social and environmental issues. In my introductory article to the issue, I considered what makes the Rising Powers special and in what ways they will affect global labour and environmental standards. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, Nobel Prize-winning economics Professor Paul Krugman delivered a lecture in Oxford entitled ‘stagnation: the new normal’. At the end, a student asked if Professor Krugman supported last year’s call by the Manchester-based Post-Crash Economics Society for university economics teaching to be reformed, to diversify beyond conventional approaches whose erratic assumptions they blame for leading the world into financial crisis. Professor Krugman’s answer was hugely illuminating for those of us who are not economists. He advocated caution, pointing to the basic serviceability of the discipline, and said he would in general not support a move to teaching through a ‘schools of thought’ approach. I was shocked; not by his opinion but because until he said that I genuinely had no idea that there were any disciplines in social science which aren’t taught through a ‘schools of thought’ approach – i.e. one which presents different methods of enquiry and interpretation and asks students to evaluate them as they also learn to employ them. Continue reading →
Thomas Piketty has written a brilliant book showing the change in inequality over the long period, with very high inequality in capital ownership and income in the late 19th and early 20th century, a period of declining inequality in a long middle period of the 20th century (from around 1920 to 1980) followed by a sharp rise in inequality in a number of countries (notably the US and UK). By the beginning of the 21st century, inequality had almost reached the levels of the early 20th century.
Apart from the careful compilation of statistics (helped by Tony Atkinson and others), the book’s major contributions are to put the issue of inequality firmly on the agenda; to make us think again about the distribution of wealth as well as of incomes; and to emphasise the importance of functional distribution, or the allocation of the national income to profits, wages and rent, which is rarely considered by modern economics, even though this was the way that classical economists such as Ricardo and Marx analysed distributional issues. On top of all this, he argues, very convincingly, that the vast salaries (and bonuses) paid to top managers of banks and large corporations are not ‘competitive’ but arise because the recipients are free (more or less) to determine their own pay.
On the eve of World Refugee Day, the global refugee population is larger than at any time for nearly two decades. The largest numbers are in the Middle East, where there are now over 2.8 million Syrian refugees, 2.5 million Afghan refugees and 750,000 Iraqi refugees, in addition to the longstanding presence of 4.8 million Palestinian refugees. The recent resumption of conflict in Iraq illustrates that these numbers are only likely to increase.
In March a group of students from the MSc in Migration Studies travelled to Istanbul for a study trip to meet with specialists and representatives from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly (HCA) and the Tarlabaşı Community Centre, among others. These meetings have informed this article.
The classical “dirty hand” problem in political theory, which involves the choice between two morally challenging “evils”, sums up well the ethical puzzle of secret diplomacy: the lesser evil choice (the practice of deception) remains morally disagreeable even if it is judged to be politically necessary for avoiding a greater evil (e.g., potential military conflict). Continue reading →
European Parliamentary elections are currently taking place. Eurosceptic parties such as UKIP (UK), PVV (the Netherlands), and Front National (France) are expected to rake up a significant share of the vote. These parties exploit fears of mass migration within Europe from new Eastern member states, successfully linking their longstanding anti-immigration agendas with anti-EU agendas. Since the accession of thirteen new member states in 2004 (A8), 2007 (A2) and 2013, migration within the European Union has risen significantly. Many residents in the old member states (the ‘EU-15’) view this migration as a threat to employment and a burden on welfare benefits. In light of this it is necessary to ask: What is the actual scale of intra-European migration? How is it regulated? What evidence is there of ‘welfare tourism’?
According to most opinion polls, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be the front runner in India’s just-concluded general elections. Political pundits attribute the apparently immense popularity of the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, to his image as a man favourable to India’s development. This popularity, they aver, is the result of the emergence of a New India. In this New India, they tell us, all that matters is development, growth and the economy. Identities and ideologies are unimportant. What Indians want is someone who can ‘deliver’ on the promise of development, even if that means supporting a politician who stands accused of fomenting civil conflict during his time as a Chief Minister of Gujarat. Continue reading →
The inaugural Asian alumni event for Oxford University, held recently in Hong Kong and led by the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, made plenty of waves, marking as it did the University’s largest ever gathering of graduates in Asia.
A few days later I was part of a much lower-profile delegation from Oxford University to arrive in Asia Continue reading →
India’s Hindu Right is associated with the colour saffron. The saffron flag, or bhagwa dhwaj adorns the offices of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS or Sangh for short), which is at the core of the Hindu nationalist movement. The Sangh stands for an India of ‘one nation, one culture, one people’. Under this philosophy, the Muslims and Christians of multi-religious, multi-cultural India must either depart the country’s shores, or live as second-class citizens under Hindu supremacy. Continue reading →