The Columbia Center for Political Economy identifies and advances the most promising contemporary developments within economics and promotes a new political economy with a robust institutional, cross-disciplinary orientation.
“With the creation of this center, Columbia University will be joining a critically important national and global effort to address the nature of political economy and how it determines matters such as the distribution of wealth and the relationship of the public and private spheres of our lives,” said Columbia President Emeritus Lee C. Bollinger. “I can’t think of a subject more urgent or consequential, and I’m deeply grateful to the Hewlett Foundation for its support.”
The economic shocks generated by the financial meltdown of 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic have catalyzed a wide range of fresh thinking. Not just financial or viral crises, but soaring inequalities, transformations to the scale of firms, often beyond effective regulation, inadequate investments in public goods, and global supply chain limitations have called into question the adequacy of inherited economic frameworks, especially radical market-based approaches that often go hand in hand with budgetary austerity.
At the same time, a new intellectual ferment is underway. We are witnessing a sprouting of post-neoliberal theory and an empirical turn in applied research, and liberation from a fixation on efficiency as the primary criterion to evaluate market outcomes. Further, scholarship concerning the zone of political economy is bringing economics into conversation with other disciplines, as scholars respond to the multiple dimensions of inequality—attending not only to vital assets like housing and medical care, but also to access to dignity and respect, heightened political as well as economic uncertainty, and fractured institutions.
The Columbia Center for Political Economy is motivated by these contemporary circumstances, with confidence that renewed thinking in economics and interdisciplinary engagement can generate feasible policy ideas, advance equitable prospects to better secure and share prosperity, help ensure a sustainable environment, and undergird representative democracy.
With support from the Hewlett Foundation, the Center builds upon initiatives and programs across Columbia University, spanning disciplines and fields of inquiry including economics, history, law, political science, sociology, public health, engineering, and data science. The Center seeds new research, prompts scholarly publications and policy outputs, fosters curricular materials that will feed into textbooks and coursework, and creates and deepens networks of scholars and practitioners among the Columbia community and beyond.
At the core of its work, the Center is developing “Idea Labs'' to serve as intellectual and policy incubators across distinct themes.
The Idea Labs function as convening hubs for Columbia faculty and students to advance new thinking, affect graduate training, and incubate ideas. Concerned with developing new intellectual frameworks in economics and related fields that take seriously power, equity, and uncertainty, the Labs create opportunities for faculty and students to engage with practitioners and policymakers, and support, identify, and advance the most promising recent developments in academic thinking. The Labs have an intentional cross-disciplinary focus and bring together economics, history, law, political science, sociology, public health, engineering, data science, and other fields.
In total, the Center will launch four Idea Labs focused on Work and Labor, Firms and Industrial Policy, the Political Economy of Climate, and Money and Finance. The first two labs, Work and Labor and Firms and Industrial Policy, were launched in the Center’s inaugural year.
The Work and Labor Idea Lab explores the forces, institutions, and ideas that regulate labor and labor markets, with a focus on the modes of collective action by workers, as well as the interactions among workers, employers, markets, and the larger society. It also concentrates on the future of labor movements at home and abroad, with an emphasis on technological and other transformations.
The Firms and Industrial Policy Idea Lab develops new intellectual frameworks for understanding firms and firm behaviors, providing the basis for more equitable policies. Work in the Lab explores the conditions that shape how and when firms compete, cooperate, collude, merge, and exclude rivals, push prices below competitive rates for suppliers, compete for investors and labor, and deal with activists or enlist government support to access resources or dampen competition.
The Money and Finance Idea Lab explores the relation of money and finance both in theoretical terms and in institutional configurations, including the design of financial instruments as well as the policy instruments employed by central banks, but also the design of financial intermediaries and their relation to central banks and financial market regulators. The deeply imbricated institutional relation of money and finance has important implications for political economy.
As multi-year projects, each Idea Lab will do the following:
- Host a Postdoctoral Research Scholar;
- Provide Faculty Grants and, starting in the Center’s second year, Graduate Student Grants on related topics;
- Host and co-host relevant conferences, seminars, workshops, and other public and semi-public events; and
- Generate scholarly publications and public-facing reports.
We encourage you to join an Idea Lab as an engaged faculty member to explore and shape the next generation of thinking. To learn more, please contact [email protected].
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University; Deputy Director, Columbia World Projects
Professor of Economics and International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Edwin B. Parker Professor of Comparative Law and Director of the Center on Global Legal Transformation, Columbia Law School
Project Director, Center for Political Economy at Columbia World Projects
Project Officer, Center for Political Economy at Columbia World Projects
Patricia D. and R. Paul Yetter Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Constitutional Governance, Columbia Law School
Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise, Columbia Business School
Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
María Victoria Murillo
Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Columbia University
Professor of History, Barnard College
Joseph E. Stiglitz
University Professor, Columbia University
Director of the European Institute and Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of History, Columbia University
Director of the Justice Lab and Bryce Professor of Sociology and Social Justice, Columbia University
In May 2023, the Columbia Center for Political Economy announced the awardees of its inaugural round of Faculty Grants.
Intended to general new knowledge and new networks, facilitate the exchange of discoveries, accelerate the identification of key challenges, and open up the methods scholars use, grants made in 2023 support work that aligns with the Work and Labor or Firms and Industrial Policy Idea Labs. In future years, the Center will seek proposals that align with all four Idea Labs: Work and Labor, Firms and Industrial Policy, Money and Finance, and the Political Economy of Climate.
The Columbia Center for Political Economy will open the Faculty Grant Opportunity annually in January, with March deadlines for submission.
Sign up for the Columbia Center for Political Economy newsletter to be notified when the next application becomes available.
The CPE Graduate Student Grants program provides Columbia graduate students with financial support to conduct research within the field of political economy, understood broadly. Each Idea Lab hosts their own grant opportunity.
Currently, the Work and Labor Idea Lab and the Firms and Industrial Policy Idea Lab are accepting applications for their CPE Graduate Student Grants programs. Applications will be accepted between Friday, September 1, 2023 and Monday, October 16, 2023, at 5:00 PM EDT.
- November 10, 2023: New Thinking in Industrial, Innovation & Technology Policy: Perspectives from Developed & Developing Countries
We welcome papers on this broad theme for consideration for the program. We are open to considering extended abstracts or proposals for big-think talks. Submissions using the online form are due by Friday, Sept. 15 at 11:59pm EDT.
Big Ideas Book Series:
- September 14, 2023: Nelson Lichtenstein, Research Professor in the Department of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara discussing, A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism, with discussant Alexander Hertel-Fernandez. Register for this in-person event.
Recently, a spate of economists have authored conceptual books on topics of interdisciplinary and cross-sector import for an audience broader than their field. Meanwhile, scholars from other disciplines are tackling pressing problems of political economy from a range of perspectives. To spur engagement between economists and scholars and practitioners from other disciplines, this series will bring together diverse perspectives in an open dialogue.
Policy Knowledge Workshop Series:
These workshops focus on how scholarly knowledge, past and present, sometimes becomes policy knowledge; that is, when ideas principally generated in the academy come to be embedded in governmental processes, actions, and institutions. The workshops are held four times per semester to explore the ways in which particular concepts get adopted and implemented as government programs and strategies, as well as the ways certain policy demands enable and inspire new intellectual work. The workshops are open to Columbia faculty and graduate students across disciplines.
The workshop series has ended for the 2022-23 academic year.
Join the Columbia Center for Political Economy newsletter to be alerted to events in the 2023-24 academic year.
- May 18: Big Ideas Book Series featuring Simon Johnson discussing Power and Progress: Our 1000-Year Struggle Over Technology & Prosperity
- May 5: State, Local, and Executive Branch Strategies to Build Worker Power Conference
- May 4: Big Ideas Book Series featuring Bradford DeLong discussing Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century
- April 18: Policy Knowledge Workshop with Alondra Nelson
- April 17: Expertise from the Field: Strengthening knowledge and community engagement
- April 13-14: The Non-Market Effects of Market Power Conference
- April 6: Big Ideas Book Series featuring Pranab Bardhan discussing A World of Insecurity: Democratic Disenchantment in Rich and Poor Countries
- March 30-31: Digital Global Futures Policy Forum
- March 21:Policy Knowledge Workshop with Alice O’Connor
- March 9: Big Ideas Book Series featuring Claudia Goldin discussing Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity
- March 3: Constitutional Political Economy Conference
- February 28: Policy Knowledge Workshop with Julia Ott
- February 7: Policy Knowledge Workshop with K. Sabeel Rahman
- January 19, 2023: Big Ideas Book Series featuring Leah Boustan discussing Streets of Gold: America's Untold Story of Immigrant Success,
- October 24, 2022: The Legacy of Frances Perkins, Pioneer for Social Justice Conference
- October 21, 2022: Connecting the Dots: Globalization, Intermediation, and Efficiency Conference
- September 30 - October 1, 2022: The Future of the Labor Movement Conference
- September 21, 2022: Legal History Workshop with Gary Gerstle