Economy and Society Summer School

Blackwater Castle, Co. Cork, Ireland. 11-15th of May 2015


We were very pleased to host the

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins

who opened the school on Monday the 11th of May

President Higgins Summer school 2

(President Michael D. Higgins with Willie Donnelly (President WIT), Caroline Fennell (Head of College of ACSS, UCC), with staff, organisers and students of the 2015 Summer school)

The full text of the President’s opening address can be viewed at:



In 2016 the

Economy and Society Summer School

will run from the 10th to the 14th of May, at Blackwater Castle, Co.Cork,

Contact: info.easss@gmail.com

Theme, staff and all other details will be announced in November 2015.


About the Summer School

The Economy and Society Summer School will bring together 50 scholars – around 20 faculty and 30 business and social sciences PhD researchers for an intensive and convivial residential course dealing with theories, concepts and methods of inquiry.

The summer school is tailored to the needs of doctoral students in Business and Social Sciences, and aspires to help early stage researchers strengthen and widen their theoretical basis in ways that allows them to position their work amongst broader discourses, extend and sharpen their understanding of their theoretical and empirical practices and to contribute to their formation as independently-minded researchers. The school will be of particular interest to  PhD researchers from sociology, politics, anthropology, geography and history on the one hand, and organisation studies, management, marketing, finance and economics on the other.

The School is a rich mix of conventional presentations, small group work, student-led seminars & discussions, peer-group presentations & feedback sessions; all arranged to promote discussion and argument around your research and how it fits into the broader themes of the economy and society. To that end, the number of participants is limited to no more than 30 and the cost of participation is kept low.

The Summer School is designed around three different kinds of learning formats and interaction: By providing these three different formats our aim is to enhance a structured, interactive but also informal way of discussing broader issues around each individual’s research. These formats are:

  1. Key notes given by invited faculty followed by discussions
  2. Short dialogical presentations usually delivered in thematically selected pairs
  3. Small breakout reading groups based on selected key readings, functioning as small tutorial sessions on the talks and their relevance to student’s work

University College Cork and Waterford Institute of Technology jointly organise the school. The event is inspired by and organised under the auspices of ‘The President of Ireland’s Initiative’.

About our Approach to Investigating the Economy and Society

Why research economy and society? Post-graduate students from across disciplines in business and the social sciences need to address both economy and society. Clearly, the economy shapes society, and economic institutions are irreducibly social. Furthermore, in an increasingly interdisciplinary academic world, sociology, anthropology, politics, geography and history on the one hand, and organisation studies, management, marketing, finance and economics on the other can indeed be mutually illuminating. Thus, this summer school is oriented to the contemporary social science concern with the economy and the turn towards the social in the broad range of economics and business. Bridging the gap between these paradigms and developing a new language to address the intersections of economy and society is a vital contemporary concern.

Overcoming the false division of the economic and the social. Dividing economy from society is also problematic, theoretically, politically and ethically. It is a meaningless generality to say that the ‘economy’ supports ‘society’ or that ‘society’ contains the ‘economy’. The reality is much more complex. Economic processes, for instance, markets, capital formation, enterprise, production, consumption, working lives, advertising and unemployment are all culturally specific. States are interwoven with the economy, providing monetary supply, regulating and deregulating markets, taxing and spending and managing the population for prosperity – howsoever defined. From collective identity to individual life-courses and the formation of complex networks, the rise of institutions and social change, modern society is influenced by economic processes.

Part of the problem is that scholars don’t always talk to each other. Many contemporary academics get ahead by publishing within their own specialised field, knowing more and more about less and less. To understand the complexity of our world they need to talk across disciplinary boundaries, rather than developing their own impenetrable jargon. Thus, the inaugural school brought together scholars from economics, finance, engineering and business with those from sociology, anthropology, politics and history.

To some, the economy appears as a sort of autonomous assemblage of law-like forces; supply, demand, labour and capital, and yet it can be concretely investigated through more micro phenomena such as offices, factories, companies, entrepreneurship, internationalisation, networks or cultural practices such as consumerism, leisure and credit. Economic processes are experienced subjectively, for instance, the trials of job-seeking and ‘selling yourself’, the experience of indebtedness, poverty or social mobility. The economic crises of the past five years have certainly made it clear that society and economics are intertwined in a myriad of complex ways. Boom and bust involve strong emotions of optimism and pessimism. House-buying thrives on cheap credit, but also involves social competition for prestige. Unemployment is about jobs, but also shaped by social welfare policies which support people or push them into internships or low-quality jobs. These aspects also relate in complex ways to contemporary culture and to ecology, technology and the environment.

Many areas of social and personal life have become suffused with economic logics; we work on ourselves, our families and our relationships; there is a marketplace for ideas, for love and for friendship; we ‘consume’ media history and politics. While there is much to critique in the injustices, excesses and absurdities of the ‘economy’, it is first of all necessary to understand it interpretatively. Since Weber’s ‘protestant ethic’ thesis, it is clear that in modern society one of our highest values, our most important institutions and primary markers of identity is work. Paradoxically, a gulf has opened between economic practices and social norms, even as society has increasingly taken on the market principle.

Furthermore, historical perspectives suggest that there is a complex and often surprising lineage in the emergence, transformation and consolidation of money, private property and markets.

Economic and social theories shape our world. Of course, intellectual ideas don’t stay in the ivory tower. The main activities of the contemporary state are economic management; taxation, regulation and providing social services, and how this is approached is grounded in how we think about these activities. The ideas of liberals like Adam Smith, J.S. Mill or Jeremey Bentham transformed how nineteenth century governments managed the market. The socialist ideas of Marx and Engels created revolutions in many parts of the world and inspired welfare states in others. The resurgence of liberalism in the thought of Hayek, Milton Friedman and James Buchanan was adopted by Thatcher and Reagan and has transformed the globe for the last few decades. The most strident voices on economics come from these traditions, from liberal cheer-leaders of current government policy to strident left-wing critics.

Yet, in the face of the ecological crisis, growing inequality, the decline of unions, the fragility of welfare states, and the growing power of international corporations and money markets, it is clear that something needs to change. New thinking is required; re-considering ethics, economy and society is a good place to start.

Economics, Ethics and Morality. The summer school addresses ‘economic ethics’, both in Weber’s classical sense that cultural ideas shape our practical actions in this world, and that the moral foundations of the economy are a vital contemporary concern. In the light of contemporary and on-going crises, what are our economic ethics today? Is liberal individual freedom sufficient? How far should states intervene? Or has a gulf has opened between economic practices and social norms? Critics suggest alienation, environmental degradation, inequality, hyper-individuation and the loss of meaning emerge from contemporary economic practices. Here, rather than consider ‘economy’ or ‘society’ as an assemblage of untameable law-like forces to be palliated by state intervention, the summer school will analyse the ‘ethics’ underlying contemporary trends, and consider alternative ethics and neglected ‘moral foundations’.

Now open for applications: info.easss[@]gmail.com

Organisers: Tom Boland, Ray Griffin and John O’Brien – Waterford Institute of Technology,

 In collaboration with Kieran Keohane, Colin Sumner and Arpad Szakolczai – University College Cork


Kindly supported by the Irish Academy of Management