2023 AFEE President's Letter
Greetings to all members of the AFEE community:
This year’s Presidential Letter begins with a report on the January 2023 meetings in New Orleans, then shines a spotlight on those elected as AFEE’s officers and award winners for 2023, describe 3 initiatives for AFEE’s work in 2023, and finishes with some words of thanks and remembrance.
Report on the January 2023 conference. The January 2023 New Orleans meetings saw both the ICAPE and ASSA conferences return to an in-person format. Over 80 AFEE members submitted paper proposals, and every one of them was allocated a slot in either an ICAPE or ASSA session. This large demand exceeded the capacity of our 11 ASSA slots; but due to our partnership with ICAPE – the International Consortium for Associations for Pluralism in Economics – whose conference occurs one day in advance of the ASSA meetings, room was made for everyone. Over half of this year’s paper presenters work and live outside the US, a sign of AFEE’s increasingly international scope.
This year’s annual meetings at New Orleans were a great success: both the ICAPE and ASSA portions of our integrated AFEE program were well-attended and dynamic. A particular highlight, organized by 2022 AFEE President Mary Wrenn, was an impassioned session led by representatives of a regional Planned Parenthood chapter exposing the consequences of the US Supreme Court’s reversal of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision protecting the right to abortion. A downside of these meetings was the inability of some presenters to attend because of adverse budgetary, political, or geopolitical circumstances. Virtual presentations provided only a small measure of relief.
AFEE’s award winners for 2023. The January 2023 New Orleans meetings honored three deserving award winners. Jon D. Wisman of American University won the 2023 Veblen-Commons Award, which annually recognizes scholarly contributions in the field of evolutionary institutional economics; those members who have not yet explored Professor Wisman’s work might start with his 2022 book, The Origins and Dynamics of Inequality: Sex, Politics, and Ideology (Oxford University Press). Kanchana Ruwanpura of the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) was named the 2023 Clarence Ayers Scholar, which annually honors a promising international scholar. Professor Ruwanpura gave an inspiring talk examining the circumstances of her home country from an institutionalist perspective, entitled ‘Polanyi in Sri Lanka: Corrupted Capitalism, Dis-Embeddness and Public Protests.’ And Huáscar Pessali of the Federal University of Parana (Brazil) was named the 2023 James H. Street Scholar for his scholarship on Latin America; his talk, ‘Institutional Mishmash,’ was a provocative reflection on Latin American governments’ institutionally-blunted efforts to reduce inequality and re-ignite regional development.
Newly elected and continuing AFEE officers for 2023. AFEE’s 2022 elections saw Alexandra Bernasek of Colorado State University named as President-Elect for 2023, putting her in line to be AFEE President in 2024. This election also saw Barbara Hopkins of Wright State University, Susan Schroeder of the University of Sydney, and Danielle Guizzo of the University of Bristol named to the AFEE Board, with Danielle serving in the role of International Director. In 2024, Mary V. Wrenn is serving as Past President after completing her Presidential term for 2023; and Eric Hake of Catawba College continues as our Secretary/Treasurer. Continuing on the AFEE board are Lynne Chester of the University of Sydney, Wolfram Elsner of the University of Bremen, Thomas Kemp of the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire, and Anna Klimina of the University of Saskatchewan. Seven of these 10 officers and committee members are women, and seven are associated with universities located outside the United States.
Three key initiatives for 2023 and beyond. Three priorities will constitute a focus for AFEE activities in 2024. The first of these is the re-initiation of the AFEE summer workshop. Members who participated in the last such workshop, held in 2005 at Colorado State University, will remember that impactful event for its success in stimulating a new generation of institutionalist scholars. In light of the daunting multi-scalar challenges to human and planetary sustainability, the need to refresh the ideas and range of Original Institutionalist Economics is self-evident. Mary Wrenn is leading a planning committee for this summer workshop. It will prioritize early-career researchers and graduate students, focusing both on core concepts of institutionalist economics and on today’s pressing policy challenges. Mary’s committee, all-woman in composition, will plan this event for this summer or next, with Washington DC as the target site. A special (virtual) AFEE Board meeting on 25 April (3 PM US East Coast time) will be held to work out the financing and arrangements for this event. Those who wish to join or learn more about the planning committee can register their interest at this link: AFEE Summer Workshop.
A second priority for this year involves the initiation of intensive planning for an AFEE Archive. Given the number of members whose legacy involves significant contributions to institutionalist scholarship, and the urgent need to honor, preserve, and advance that scholarship, an Ad Hoc Committee on an AFEE Archive has been established. Bill Waller, editor of the Journal of Economic Issues, is serving as chair of a committee comprised of AFEE Trustees (per our bylaws); its other members are former AFEE officers Glen Atkinson, Charles Clark, Jan Knoedler, James Peach, and Mary V. Wrenn. Expect progress on this front by the time we meet for the 2024 meetings in San Antonio.
A third priority is to continue to acknowledge and lend support to AFEE’s expanding intellectual and geographic scope: the increasingly global reach of our scholarly interests and members, our ever-richer interdisciplinary explorations of the critical policy issues now confronting all nations and all people, and our collegial ties with heterodox scholarship in economics and political economy, with special attention to intersectional issues including gender, race and ethnicity, and post-colonialism. This effort must, like the planned summer workshop, focus on younger-generation scholars. The success of the Journal of Economic Issues in achieving ever-higher download totals, especially in universities outside the US, has not been paralleled by an increasing cohort of early-career members. There are different possible solutions to this problem; but one building block is to provide a platform for meaningful work that builds bridges from Original Institutionalist Economics to other traditions in heterodox economics, and to the many diverse issues confronting Asia, Africa, Oceania, Europe, and the Americas.
This priority will, in this year, involve our collaboration with the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy (in its 2024 conference in Leeds), and the work of both our Committee on Regional and International Conferences and our Membership Committee in deepening our international ties. But this is not a challenge to be sloughed off on these two committees. We must all take on the challenge, individually and collectively, of joining together our efforts locally, nationally, and globally.
Thanks, remembrance, and a request. I want to acknowledge the efforts of those AFEE committee and Board members whose terms ended in January 2023: Rojhat Avsar, Felipe Almeida (International Director), and Alexandra Bernasek (Alexandra, of course, is now AFEE President-Elect). I also want to give special thanks to several people who have provided me with grace and steady encouragement throughout this past year: Mary Wrenn, Eric Hake, Bill Waller, and Teresa Rowell. They have guided me every step of the way.
The importance of carrying on the work we do is brought into focus when we consider the losses in our extended community in the past year. 2022 saw the death of one of the most distinguished Original Institutionalists, Paul Dale Bush. Also lost in the last year were many major contributors to heterodox economics traditions – scholars united by their shared insistence on the importance of the social, political, and institutional dynamics underlying economic outcomes. Among them were Drucilla Barker, Vicky Chick, Jim Crotty, Herman Daly, Herb Gintis, Hazel Henderson, Edward Irons, Makoto Itoh, Jerzy Osiatynski, J. Barkley Rosser, Jr., and Abhijit Sen. We can take something from each of them in the everyday work that now is ours to carry on.
So let me end with a simple request: please renew your membership in AFEE – or if not a member, join the association. One of the most basic lessons of institutionalism is one of the simplest: we are as strong as the collective mechanisms we build and sustain. You can check on whether your AFEE membership is up-to-date at https://afee.net/?page=user_account&op=login. If you are having trouble in figuring out your membership status, please send an email to Teresa Rowell (Log into your account to view the email address.) for assistance.
Gary Dymski, AFEE President 2023