In October 2012, British Sociological Association journal Work, employment and society hosted a one-day conference reflecting on key debates and looking forward to what the future might hold for the discipline and the journal. We are happy to have video footage of the stimulating presentations.

WES has published critical political economy by authors like Tony Cutler and Theo Nichols which has dissected the confusions of mainstream economics and managerialism. But we have yet to develop a constructive political economy which explains how we can manage the current conjuncture in the interests of labour and for the common good. This presentation takes up this task for the UK where the worsening regional problems of the ex- industrial districts are nested in a stalled UK economy. And there is a policy impasse because the British central state increasingly lacks the political will and technical capability to solve deep seated problems through macro economic management or structural reform or industrial policy.

Against this background, much depends on local and regional initiatives which challenge current limits on what is economically thinkable and politically doable. The primary focus should be on managing what‘s left. This is the foundational economy (health, education and welfare, utility infrastructure, retail and food processing) which employs more than 40% of the workforce. The new imaginary would involve breaking with policies that promote competition and perfect the market. Instead local and regional actors should press initiatives for coordination and networked provision within the regional economy with limits on value
extraction.

Karel Williams
The Foundational Economy in Britain
Director of Centre for Research on Socio Cultural Change (CRESC) , Manchester Business School

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