The Political Economy of Crises and Transformations

Faculty of Management, Economics and Society

    The Political Economy of Crises and Transformations

    ‘Crisis’ is frequently diagnosed today in the context of various interrelated issues: climate change, various financial and economic shocks, the COVID-19 pandemic migration, and the never-ending eurocrisis. But how is ‘crisis’ diagnosed and what are the challenges, problems, and opportunities of this diagnosis? When does crisis create the possibility of transformation and/or radical change, and when is that possibility effaced because of its urgent and drastic connotations? Under what conditions do crises undermine or reaffirm existing power relations, institutional structures, and vested interests?

    For the lecture series we have invited exciting speakers who will present different political-economic perspectives on crises and transformations including Heiner Flassbeck (economist), Bob Jessop (University of Lancaster), Alina Brad (University of Vienna), Daniela Gabor (UWE Bristol), Amanda Machin (Witten/Herdecke University), Franziska Müller (University of Hamburg), Brett Christophers (Uppsala University), Jason Moore (Binghamton University), Bill McKibben (economist and activist), and Matthew Paterson (University of Manchester) (in order of appearance).

    At the end of each session, we will discuss what we have heard, incorporating the learnings from the previous sessions, in order to develop a shared vision of how the various crises are related and what a future sustainable international economic and political system and society might look like. To this end, we have created an interactive Prezi mindmap where you can navigate through the key insights from each session.


    Zoom link

    The event is planned in a hybrid format to make sure that people from all over the world can attend and will be open to attendants from all backgrounds. You can participate either by following the 3G rule on campus or by joining online via Zoom.

    The access link is

    Timetable - events take place 6.30 pm - 8 pm
    Date Format Speaker Topic Language Place
    October 19 Lecture Heiner Flassbeck Die permanente Krise als Folge der neoklassischen Renaissance German

    In Presence: Auditorium (New Wooden Building),

    October 26 Lecture Bob Jessop

    Crisis, Crisis Construals, and Crisis-Resolution



    Room 1.181 (Main Building)
    November 2 Lecture Alina Brad Ökologische Krise und sozial-ökologische Transformation German

    In Presence: Auditorium (New Wooden Building),

    November 9 Lecture Daniela Gabor Green macroeconomics for the low carbon transition: a critical macrofinance approach English


    Room 1.181 (Main Building)
    November 16 Lecture Amanda Machin Climate, Crisis and Democratic Transformation English

    In Presence: Auditorium (New Wooden Building),

    November 23 Internal Reflection (UW/H course participants only) --- --- English In Presence: Auditorium (New Wooden Building)
    November 30 Lecture Franziska Müller Green financialisation: How Zambia's energy transition fell prey to de-risking strategies English


    December 7 Lecture Brett Christophers Taking Renewables to Market: Prospects for the After-Subsidy Energy Transition English


    December 14 Lecture Jason Moore Climate Crisis in the Making and Unmaking of the Modern World English


    December 21 Internal Reflection (UW/H course participants only) --- --- English Room 1.181 (Main Building)
    January 11 Lecture Bill McKibben Stopping the Money That's Heating the Planet English


    Room 1.181 (Main Building)
    January 18 Lecture Matthew Paterson Climate change as transformational politics: de (and re)politicisation, purification, and complexity English


    Room 1.181 (Main Building)
    January 25 Internal Reflection (UW/H course participants only) --- (Reflection of the last sessions for course participants only) English Room 1.181 (Main Building)
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    Session content: I'll describe the efforts to staunch the flow of money to the fossil fuel industry, why it's important, and how it can be slowed down.

    Bill McKibben is a founder of the environmental organization and was among the first to have warned of the dangers of global warming. He is a pioneer - an icon in the field of climate action. His book “The End of Nature” (1989) has been called the first book on global warming written for a general audience. He is founder and senior advisor emeritus of, the first global grassroots climate campaign for climate action. He became and remains a frequent contributor to various publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harper's, The New Yorker, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone. Foreign Policy magazine named him to its inaugural list of the 100 most important global thinkers.

    Bill McKibben

    Jun.-Prof. Dr. Franziska Müller

    Session content: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)set a game-changing agenda, which, given the US$7 trillion needed in investment by 2030, can only succeed with the support of private capital. Green funds, green bonds, and a market-enabling policy framework based on de-risking promising green economies-to-be, form part of the emerging green investment regime. Critical finance research considers these developments as a move from the ‘Washington Consensus’ towards the ‘Wall Street Consensus’, i.e. a kind of paradigm shift that mobilizes private capital in hitherto unseen ways and contributes to a financialization of development cooperation. We critically examine two transnational renewable energy projects in Zambia, drawing on the financialization literature and, particularly, the concept of de-risking. We find that new public-private partnership coalitions impose a global market and financial logic on the Zambian energy sector and its customers, which sidelines smaller Zambian businesses and leads to a financialization of daily life for Zambian citizens.

    JunProf. Dr. Franziska Müller is Chair of Globalisation and Global Climate Governance at the University of Hamburg, and heads the research group “GLOCALPOWER: funds, tools & networks for an African Energy Transition” at the University of Hamburg. Her research covers global climate and energy governance, political economy of energy as well as postcolonial and poststructuralist approaches towards International Relations. Recent works are a comparison of African energy policies with regard to energy justice (Energy Research 

    Social Science, 2020), a close investigation of South Africa’s energy auction instrument (Review of African Political Economy, 2021), and an analysis of de-risking and energy finance flows in Zambia (Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 2021 fc.). She has also published on decolonial social science methodology (Rowman & Littlefield 2020, together with Aram Ziai and Daniel Bendix) and on International Relations in the Anthropocene (Palgrave 2021, together with David Chandler and Delf Rothe).

    Session content: The past decades have been marked by multiple crises. This is no coincidence. The neoliberal/neoclassical renaissance in economics is directly responsible for this.

    Professor Dr. Heiner Flassbeck  advises governments, political parties and other institutions in macroeconomic affairs. Prior to that he has served from 2003 to 2012 as Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). He was the principal author and the leader of the team preparing UNCTAD's Trade and Development Report.
    Prior to joining UNCTAD, Mr. Flassbeck was chief economist in the German Institute for Economic Research between 1988 and 1998, and State Secretary (Vice Minister) from October 1998 to April 1999 at the Federal Ministry of Finance responsible for international affairs, the European Union and IMF.

    Professor Dr. Heiner Flassbeck

    Matthew Paterson

    Session content: Climate change presents the most fundamental transformational challenge that human societies have ever faced. It has become increasingly clear over the last decade that climate futures can be sharply divided into ones that are catastrophic, at the extreme, signalling the complete breakdown of large-scale human societies, and ones that entail the radical remaking or more or less everything about how those societies function. Either way, radical transformations beyond anything experienced in human history are almost certain over the next 50 years. How then should we understand the politics of these transformations? This presentation proposes two recurring dynamics and tensions in climate politics, whose interaction will shape how well our societies meet this challenge. The first is between de- and re-politicisation – a tension between a common instinct to want to avoid political conflict, to make climate change a technical, economic, or other question, and to ‘lock-in’ decisions for the long-term, and the conflicts of interest and power intrinsic to the nature of climate change itself. The second is one between purification and complexity – between the commonplace to reduce climate change to a simple ‘solution’ (price carbon, new technology, abolish capitalism) and the inherent complexity of the radical shifts in energy, transport, manufacturing, and food systems entailed in decarbonising the global economy.

    Matthew Paterson is Professor of International Politics at the University of Manchester and Research Director of the Sustainable Consumption Institute. His research focuses on the political economy, global governance, and cultural politics of climate change. His latest work will be published during 2021 as In Search of Climate Politics (Cambridge University Press).

    Session content: Crises are objectively overdetermined but subjectively indeterminate. That is, crises have roots in complex objective social processes but they are hard to interpret subjectively and to resolve. There are three ways that construals can be assessed: in terms of the scientific validity of the interpretation, the narrative plausibility of construals, and their ability to see what exists in potential in a crisis situation that could be realised if correct actions are taken. Different criteria hold for evaluating these construals and their contribution to crisis resolution.

    Bob Jessop is an emeritus Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University. He researches state theory, welfare state restructuring, critical governance studies, Marxism, and cultural political economy. Recent books include: The State: Past, Present, Future (2015) and Putting Civil Society in its Place (2020) and the co-edited book, The Pedagogy of Economic, Political and Social Crises (co-edited with Karim Knio, 2019).

    Bob Jessop

    Amanda Machin

    Session content: Is the future of a climate changing world a democratic one? Should conventional democratic institutions be bypassed or can they become more responsive to a changing climate? Does the climate crisis provoke radical political reinvention?  In this lecture I consider these questions, tracing the implications of climate change for the contemporary theories and institutions of democracy.

    Amanda Machin is a researcher at the University of Witten/Herdecke and a visiting fellow at the Centre for Social Investment, Heidelberg University. Her research focuses on radical democratic politics and the political dynamics, identifications and discourses of socio-ecological transformation. Her books include Society and Climate: Transformations and Challenges (World Scientific 2019, co-authored with Nico Stehr) and Negotiating Climate Change: Radical Democracy and the Illusion of Consensus (Zed Books, 2013) and together with Marcel Wissenburg she is currently editing a collection on Green Political Theory with Edward Elgar.


    Session content: The development of renewable energy resources is currently undergoing a sea-change. With the cost of key (solar and wind) technologies having significantly declined in the past decade, governments are widely reducing or even removing the subsidies and revenue guarantees that have supported the development of renewables to date. The renewables sector is struggling to stand commercially on its own feet, however: without the collateral of state support, it is often difficult for developers to secure affordable project financing. In this talk I discuss both this growing challenge to the energy transition and a principal mechanism to which renewables developers are turning to try to resolve it – the corporate power-purchase agreement (PPA). Under renewables PPAs, corporations ranging from cloud-computing providers to aluminium smelters contract to buy electricity from solar parks or wind farms at fixed or floor prices for periods of up to 15–20 years. Often crucial in enabling developers to raise finance, PPAs have been widely hailed as re-energizing a faltering energy transition. But to rely on the purchasing habits of the likes of Amazon and Google rather than the investment priorities of governments to maintain the shift into renewables is, of course, to raise important political, economic and ecological questions.

    Brett Christophers has studied at Oxford University (BA, 1993), the University of British Columbia (MA, 1995) and the University of Auckland (PhD, 2008). Since 2008 he works at Sweden’s Uppsala University. He is a Professor at the Department of Social and Economic Geography and at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research. As a geographer with a background in Political Economy he is interested in various aspects of Western capitalism. His recent publications include two books published by Verso, The New Enclosure: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain (2018) and Rentier Capitalism: Who Owns the Economy, and Who Pays for It? (2020).

    Brett Christophers

    Jason W. Moore

    Sssion content: In this lecture, the environmental historian Jason W. Moore explores the history class, civilizational crisis, and climate change in the Holocene.  Exploring great climate/class crises from the Bronze Age to the Little Ice Age, Moore shows how climate changes have been entangled with civilizational crises. Viewing civilizations as world-ecologies of power and re/production in the web of life, we can bring into focus of the unity of today’s climate crisis as one of “social formation” entwined with “earth formation.” In this planetary crisis, rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are joined with the climate class divide, climate apartheid, and climate patriarchy.

    Jason W. Moore teaches world-ecology and world history at Binghamton University, where he coordinates the World-Ecology Research Network. His books include Capitalism in the Web of Life and, with Raj Patel, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, both in German translation. Many of his essays, including translations, can be accessed on his website. He blogs regularly at and can be reached at

    Session content: The climate crisis is becoming increasingly palpable and is invading our everyday lives and ways of living ever more deeply. It is part of a broader ecological crisis whose understanding is shaped by scientific discourses on the 'Anthropocene' or 'planetary boundaries'. Yet the role of societal and political-economic dynamics as central drivers of the ecological crisis remains mostly under-lit in these concepts. In order to develop perspectives for a comprehensive socio-ecological transformation a critical social-theoretical understanding of the ecological crisis is needed.

    Alina Brad is a Senior Scientist at the Department of Political Science at the University of Vienna, focusing on international climate, environmental and resource policy, and socio-ecological transformations. In her current research, she investigates the controversial integration of negative emissions technologies into EU climate policy.

    Alina Brad
    Alina Brad

    Daniela Gabor

    Session content: There are two ways to organise the macroeconomics of the low-carbon transition: through the state itself or through private finance . The “big green state” approach involves massive public investments in green infrastructure and industries. In contrast, the status-quo “big finance” approach, as for instance promoted by the COP26, wants the state – through its fiscal and central bank arms – to simply guide the private sector by changing price signals and derisking climate investments for private investors. The Big State route is hampered by political and institutional obstacles, including the (infra)structural power of private finance, while the derisking state approach hardwires systemic greenwashing into the 'low-carbon' transition.  The talk concludes by refection on the possible outcome of the political struggles between the two in the context of growing inflationary pressures.

    Daniela Gabor is associate professor in economics at the University of the West of England, Bristol. She holds a PhD in banking and finance from the University of Stirling (2009). Since then, she has published on central banking in crisis, on the governance of global banks and the IMF, and on shadow banking and repo markets. Her latest publication is a co-edited book with Charles Goodhart, Jakob Vestegaard, and Ismail Erturk entitled Central Banking at Crossroads (Anthem Press, 2014).
    As an expert in transnational banking and shadow banking she blogs at and on Helicopter Money.

    Special thanks to the Wittener Universitätsgesellschaft (WUG) for sponsoring and supporting our lecture series. 

    Die Universität Witten/Herdecke ist durch das NRW-Wissenschaftsministerium unbefristet staatlich anerkannt und wird – sowohl als Institution wie auch für ihre einzelnen Studiengänge – regelmäßig akkreditiert durch: