Thursday, 9 January 2020

5th Op-ed in Globe & Mail newspaper

My fifth oped in Canada's Globe & Mail newspaper. Again, it hit a bit of a nerve, probably because it's about house prices and everyone seems to love talking about house prices. My focus this time was on housing affordability and the reason why increasing supply (of whatever type & tenure) will likely do nothing to reduce housing costs. It's called "The big problem with housing affordability? Real estate is still a valuable asset":
"I live in Toronto, and I rent. It was a deliberate choice when I first moved here in 2011, but now it’s not. I recently worked out that our family could buy a house valued at about $720,000 on our current rent: nothing close to the cost of a house on our street, currently selling for around double that. If we want to stay where we are – close to the subway, good schools and more – we can continue paying rent, or we can double our housing costs by buying in the neighbourhood. Buying would mean we’d be paying about 40 per cent to 50 per cent of our disposable income on housing, which is common in Toronto."
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

4th Op-ed in Globe & Mail newspaper

This is my fourth oped in Canada's Globe & Mail newspaper. It seemed to hit a nerve because it has over 200 comments - my other opeds have topped out around 10, I think. The response is probably because it came out around the same time as the main Canadian political parties were discussing the 'housing crisis' and their proposals to address it - it's an election year in Canada - plus I made a rather 'bold' prediction in it! Anyway, the piece is called "Canada has taken a perilous road to an asset-based economy":
"I predict that Canada’s housing market will crash next year, or in 2021 at the latest. A bold claim, you might think. But if we look at housing booms in the past, each lasted around 10 years and we’re reaching that boom end point in the next year or so. Canada largely survived the 2008-09 housing crash unscathed, which seemed – and still seems – like a good thing until you realize it just means this country has had another 10 years to embed housing assets at the heart of its economy."
Read the rest here.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Book review of Steve Fuller's "Academic Caesar" (2016)

I read Steve Fuller's recent book Academic Caesar (Sage, 2016) some time ago - during my sabbatical in 2017, I think - with the intent of writing a review of it. Which I did, but it sat on my laptop in a liminal state for some time as I tried to work out how to frame it (and then find the time to rework it properly).

I finally got round to writing it, and have published in on

"Academic Caesar starts with an outline of the threats to the university in our neoliberal times, although Fuller avoids taking an easy pot(-shot) at neoliberalism as the cause of all our scholarly suffering.

Fuller points out that the changing political economy of the last few decades has left the university increasingly bereft of its original purpose, which he defines as ‘producing knowledge as a public good’ (p.15). As the state’s role has changed, especially through its inf(l)ection by neoliberal principles, this has transformed the rationale for university education, since the latter had been so dependent on the former since and during the post-WW2 golden age of capitalism. Consequently, as the state has changed, so does, necessarily, the university, becoming increasingly driven by the consumers of knowledge (i.e. students) rather than its producers (i.e. academics) (p.17)."
Here is the rest of the review.

3rd Op-ed in Globe & Mail newspaper

My third op-ed in Canada's Globe & Mail newspaper came out last month. It's called "Intellectual property might not be the best way to drive Canada’s future economy":

"As a university researcher, I talk to many new technology companies, their investors and the various policy-makers and stakeholders who are financially and politically invested in their success. Often, I’m left with a sense that their intellectual property (IP) is both a blessing and a curse. On the pro-side: holding an IP asset – usually a patent – gives companies something to show investors, in the hopes of receiving some investment. On the con-side: the same IP asset can end up becoming a large target for unscrupulous “non-performing entities” – perhaps better known as “patent trolls” – or larger competitors to aim at. Basically, a patent troll or large competitor can quite easily drive a new tech company into the ground with the threat of litigation; who, after all, wants to invest in a company with an impending court case hanging over them?"
Read the rest here.

Friday, 12 July 2019

2nd Op-ed in Globe & Mail newspaper

My second op-ed in Canada's Globe & Mail newspaper came out a month or so ago. It's called "Five reasons Canada’s Digital Charter will be a bust before it even gets going":
"At the launch of Canada’s new Digital Charter on May 20, federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains described “data” as akin to “new electricity” on Twitter. People love a good metaphor when talking about new technologies, especially politicians. Take our personal data: Writers in international magazines such as The Economist and Wired have called it an untapped asset, the “new oil” of the 21st century.."
Read the rest here.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Reviews so far: "A Research Agenda for Neoliberalism"

Here are some reviews of my book A Research Agenda for Neoliberalism, which is actually out in paperback now, so at least somewhere near affordable if anyone is interested in it.

I thought I'd put the reviews in one place, probably more for my own benefit than anyone else. I'll add to them as more come in; or should that be, if more come in! 
  • Christopher May (Lancaster, UK) in LSE Review of Books (2018) - see here.
  • Stephanie Mudge (UC Davis, USA) - in economic sociology_the european electronic newsletter (2018) - see here 
  • Giorgio Baruchello (Akureyri,Iceland ) in Economics, Management, and Financial Markets (2018) - see here [this is a slightly odd one in my view]
  • Lars Cornelissen (Brighton, UK) in Journal of Political Power (2019) - see here
I know there's another critical one coming my way soon, as I was invited to write a response to it, so I'll add that once it's up online.

UPDATE: 2nd October 2019 - here's the critical review, plus my response:
  • Richard Peet (Clark University, USA) in Human Geography (2019) - see here.
  • ... and my response, in Human Geography (2019) - see here.

More to come ... hopefully!

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Some interesting books...

It's been a while since I've actually written anything resembling a blog post, as opposed to some sort of publicity for an event or publication I'm involved in. So, I thought I'd do one today!

Since it's the start of a new year, and everyone else seems to do this sort of thing round about now, I thought I'd create a short listicle of interesting (academic) books I've read over the last year (although my memory is a little hazy so it might end up being the last two years).

- Mariana Mazzucato (2018) The Value of Everything: it's nice to see a book like this come out and receive serious mainstream attention, since it touches on a range of issues that'll come more to the fore in coming years (not that they've been missing, just under-appreciated) - this includes, problems with tech monopolies, accounting standards, financial logics, rentiership, etc.

- Philip Mirowski & Edward Nik-Khah (2017) The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information: this is a really fascinating intellectual history of the way 'knowledge' has been conceptualized in economics (& in different, contrasting ways to book), stretching back to Hayek's original formulation of the "Problem of knowledge" (1945). It's relevant across a range of topics, but I find it most interesting when trying to think through some of the current issues with social media and the way we can 'game' the system - see this classic example here, "The Shed in Dulwich". Basically, knowledge is often treated as an unreconstructed object, rather than a reflexive and dynamic interplay between social actors who are always reinterpreting what each other claims. Great read.

- Aaron Perzanowski & Jason Schultz (2016) The End of Ownership: an in-depth look at how personal property is changing in contemporary, technoscientific capitalism - & the implications of this. It examines changing digital property relations when it comes to intellectual property as well as copying, cloud and streaming platforms, digital rights management, internet of things, and so on. I'd describe it as an eye-opener for anyone interested in where we might all end up.

- Jonathan Haskel & Stian Westlake (2018) Capitalism without Capital: this book delves in all the issues I'm currently interested in; intangibles, their valuation, accounting practices, investment dynamics, etc., etc. It also deals with the consequences of the 'rise of the intangibles economy' - their sub-title - such as monopoly (again!), inequality, productivity collapse, rent-seeking, etc.

None of these books is, by any standards, perfect, or without flaws, but they all offer a useful addition to the literature about contemporary, technoscientific capitalism - how we got here, what are the implications, how we might mitigate the worse effects, and so on.