The notion of “political economy” does not sound familiar nowadays. Dating back to earlier times, the term was employed by the members of the classical school of economics like Smith and Ricardo, who were its first exponents succeeded by Marx. Ever since the rise of the neo-classical school, the term “economics” has been preferred. The term “political economy”, however, has a broader meaning encompassing economics, as well. As if it is divorced from other social phenomena, in our age, the discipline of economics is defined as a technical field of expertise characterized by a level of objectivity similar to that of natural sciences, due to the fact that economic phenomena are measured in numbers and illustrated on graphs.
The deliberate employment of the term “political economy” in the title “International Conference on Political Economy” implies the fact that economics is perceived as an integral part of social phenomena in this conference. Accordingly, even if economic institutions and relations form the foundations of society in the contemporary world, economic development is dependent on social power and dynamics, while economic policies, per se, are shaped by not only technical processes but also diverse interests and choices. Within this context, politics is involved in every encounter between different economic classes, social groups and genders being shaped by the visions of a better life as the subject matter of philosophy, ethics and religion and at times it finds its best expression in art. Law, on the other hand, is the embodiment of all social relations which are, in essence, political.
Thus, this conference does not reduce society to market relations despite viewing the economy in the heart of social relations. It, above all, considers the society as a political entity. Indeed, everything constitutes the subject matter of politics. The arguments in favour of purifying market relations of the influence of politics and the discourse that they take place in their own right serve to disguise the conflicts of interest and power asymmetries inherent therein. This conference regards man as a homo politicus, as Aristoteles put it, rather than a homo economicus.
The aim of this conference is to recount the age and the world that we live in not just by presenting an image but through recognizing the potentials they offer. To this end, it evaluates the development of modern society from a historical perspective, with specific emphasis on the long-term trends and dynamics, trying to distinguish the permanent from the temporary. In this conference, the significance of subjective social / political struggles is not underestimated. Such struggles are rather accounted for within the context of objective conditions for the pursuit of happiness on the part of the masses can only be understood on the basis of an objective analysis of conditions and trends. Ethically, the conference has an analytical rather than a descriptive approach, regarding science as approaching existing phenomena critically and researching the alternatives to such phenomena.
Focusing on a specific topic every year, the conference also aims at continuity in terms of the topics elaborated upon thereby providing a forum for the further discussion of the papers and presentations of the previous year’s conference.
A Brief History of the Conference
We started our series of conferences with the title “Adam Smith in Our Day”, intending to organize a conference approaching Adam Smith, regarded as the founder of political economy, from the perspective of his works on both political economy and theory of ethics as well as with reference to his prominence and significance in our time. The papers presented at the conference expressed a leftist criticism of classical political economy due to the influence of the emerging global economic crisis. Indeed, the same crisis determined the topic of the following two conferences: “(Economic) Crisis and Development” and “Labour Markets and Employment”. The aim of the former was to analyze the global economic crisis not only through its financial dimension but also from the perspective of all its economic and non-economic aspects with a historical approach on the basis of changing economic policies; while the latter aimed to discuss the relationship between job markets and employment in general, as well as the surge in unemployment caused by the crisis, in particular, as they relate to the changes in economic policies. In 2012 and 2013 conferences, the focus was on the specific characteristics of globalization. Our fourth conference entitled “Flexibility” was organized with a view to analyzing flexibility, a notion which constitutes one of the basic trends of globalization, within a broad context ranging from labour relations to private life and personality traits. The papers presented in this particular conference made it clear that the notion of “flexibility” was predominantly studied in the academia in terms of its negative consequences in labour relations. Our fifth conference “The Reason of the Age” aimed to understand the mentality of the age, directing criticism against the rightist mentality, which advocates a “market / business” approach not only in the economic field but also in political and social fields. The sixth conference attempted to explain and account for the socio-economic circumstances that have given way to the rise of today’s social movements and different aspects associated with this process in the title “New Socioeconomic Perspectives, Social Movements, Actors”. The main theme of the 7th conference in 2016 was “State, Economic Policy, Taxation, & Development”. The main aim of this conference was to examine the relationship between economic development and political interactions between citizens and rulers, with a particular focus on taxation. The main theme of the 8th ICOPEC conference in 2017 was “Institutions, National Identity, Power, and Governance in the 21st Century”. Through mapping the processes and consequences of globalization, this conference sought to look into the multiple strands of often conflictual and contradictory forces and trends of the world in the 21st century.
The first conference was organized in 2009 with the collaboration of Kocaeli University, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University and Silesian University (Czech Republic). In the second conference, the organizers were joined by Westminister University (United Kingdom), which replaced Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. Westminister University acted as one of the chief organizers thereafter. IRES Piemonte Socio-Economic Research Institute of Piedmont (Italy), Technical University of Ostrava (Czech Republic), University of Belgrade (Serbia), and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru joined the organizing committee, in the third, fourth and fifth conferences, respectively. Among the constant supporters of the conference, The Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey, TÜBİTAK and T. İş Bankası should be mentioned.
The keynote speakers were Vivienne Brown, Tülin Öngen, Erinç Yeldan, Fuat Ercan, Ali Hakan Kara, Pierre Dardot, Gilbert Archar, Cihan Ziya Tugal, Hillel Ticktin, Richard Gunn, Micheal Perelman, Gerard Dumenil, Jamie Gough, Güneri Akalın, E. Ahmet Tonak, Sungur Savran, Atilla Göktürk, Serpahim Seferiades,N. Emrah Aydınonat, Dinç Alada, Yahya Sezai Tezel, Paul Zarembka, John Weeks, Berch Berberoğlu, Erinç Yeldan, Kemal Yıldırım, Dorothy Noyes, Sadi Uzunoğlu, Thankom Gopinath Arun, İzzettin Önder, Alfredo Saad Filho, Turan Yay, Ahmet Haşim Köse, Costas Lapavitsas, Mehmet Türkay, Joachim Becker, Galip Yalman, Ha-Joon Chang, Korkut Alp Ertürk, Ingo Schimidt, Uğur Selçuk Akalın, Mustafa Sönmez, Levent Köker, Theo Papadopoulos Kerem Alkin, Mike O’Donnell, Sohrab Behdad, Farhang Morady, Dibyesh Anand, Salvatore Capasso, Hun Joo Park, Larissa Batrancea, Ziya Öniş, Korkut Boratav, Juergen Zattler, Hacer Ansal, Seraphim Seferiades, Yılmaz Kılıçaslan, John Weeks, Ümit Akçay, Milenco Popovic, Fikret Şenses, Frederick Nixson and Thomas Moore.