Including A Symposium on 50 Years of the Union for Radical Political Economics: Volume 37A

Cover of Including A Symposium on 50 Years of the Union for Radical Political Economics

Table of contents

(17 chapters)

Part I A Symposium on 50 Years of the Union FOR Radical Political Economics


This chapter is a contribution to the intellectual history of the anxiety that full employment in the modern United States depended somehow on military spending. This discourse (conveniently abbreviated as “military Keynesianism”) is vaguely familiar, but its contours and transit still await a full study. The chapter shows the origins of the idea in the left-Keynesian milieu centered around Harvard’s Alvin Hansen in the late 1930s, with a particular focus on the diverse group that cowrote the 1938 stagnationist manifesto An Economic Program for American Democracy. After a discussion of how these young economists participated in the World War II mobilization, the chapter considers how questions of stagnation and military stimulus were marginalized during the years of the high Cold War, only to be revived by younger radicals. At the same time, it demonstrates the existence of a community of discourse that directly links the Old Left of the 1930s and 1940s with the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s, and cuts across the division between left-wing social critique and liberal statecraft.


American radical economists in the 1960s perceived China under Maoism as an important experiment in creating a new society, aspects of which they hoped could serve as a model for the developing world. But the knowledge of “actually existing Maoism” was very limited due to the mutual isolation between China and the US. This chapter analyses the First Friendship Delegation of American Radical Political Economists (FFDARPE) to the People’s Republic of China in 1972, consisting mainly of Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE) members, which was the first visit of a group of American economists to China since 1949. Based on interviews with trip participants as well as archival and published material, this chapter studies what we can learn about the engagement with Maoism by American radical economists from their dialogues with Chinese hosts, from their on-the-ground observations, and their reflection upon return. We show how the visitors’ own ideas conflicted and intersected with their perception of the Maoist practice on gender relations, workers’ management, and life in the communes. We also shed light on the diverging conceptions of the role for economic expertise between URPE and late Maoism. As the first in-depth study on the FFDARPE, we provide rich empirical insights into an ice-breaking event in the larger process of normalization in the Sino-US relations, which ultimately led to the disillusionment of the Left with China.


For Leftists engaged in the study of political economy during the 1960s and 1970s, Cuba and China held particular promise as postrevolutionary states working to construct systems of production and distribution which were predicated on solidarity and mutuality, rather than on the exploited and alienated labor upon which capitalism depended. Against the claim that the desire for individual material gain was irreducibly a part of the human experience, China and Cuba offered the possibility of – in the parlance of the time – a “new man”: a political subject whose motivations were in alignment with a socialist economy rather than a capitalist one.

Based on research in multiple archives, this paper explores efforts on the part of radical economists in the United States – including the Marxists at Monthly Review, the young academics who founded the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE), and a handful of older Left-Keynesians – to witness Third World experiments in nonmaterial incentives firsthand. What have often been dismissed as pseudo-religious “pilgrimages” were, in reality, voyages of discovery, where radicals searched for the keys to develop a sustainable, rational, and moral political economy.

While many of the answers that radicals found in Cuba and China were ultimately unsatisfying, Third-World experiments in moral incentives serve as a powerful example of “solidarity in circulation” during the “long 1960s,” and as an important reminder that attempts to keep social science research free of political contamination serve to reify disciplinary norms which are themselves the product of the political culture in which they were formed.


This contribution explores the history of women and feminism in the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE) using concepts from feminist radical political economy. A feminist approach changes the categories of economic analysis to offer a new interpretation of an older history: the formation of the Women’s Caucus. I reread the early history of the feminist project in economics through the lens of social reproduction to understand the influence of life experience on practice, particularly on the 1971 women’s walkout during a URPE conference, and on economic theory. Highlighting women’s multiple roles, as graduate students, mothers, wives, girlfriends, and/or caregivers – but ultimately as women – reveals social reproduction as a site of radical politics and demonstrates the importance of reproductive labor for understanding solidarity. In doing so, the analysis provides an example of how a feminist perspective contributes uniquely to economics.

Part II Essays


This article provides a detailed investigation of how Lewis revisited classical and Marxian concepts such as productive/unproductive labor, economic surplus, subsistence wages, reserve army, and capital accumulation in his investigation of economic development. The Lewis 1954 development model is compared to other models advanced at the time by Harrod, Domar, Swan, Kaldor, Solow, von Neumann, Nurkse, Rosenstein-Rodan, Myint, and others. Lewis applied the notion of economic duality to open and closed economies.

Part III From the Vault

Cover of Including A Symposium on 50 Years of the Union for Radical Political Economics
Publication date
Book series
Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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