Is quick and insightful political economy analysis possible? Or do quick and insightful contradict each other?
This question came to my mind while listening to one of an episode about Italy of One & Tooze the podcast hosted by Foreign Policy.
But let’s go step by step.
What is a political economy analysis?
Sarah Collinson in 2003, edited for the Overseas Development Institute a series of case studies on political economy analysis in the humanitarian sector. These were published in a paper with the title: Power, livelihoods and conflict: case studies in political economy analysis for humanitarian action.
In that paper, she provides the following definition:
Political economy analysis is concerned with the interaction of political and economic processes in a society: the distribution of power and wealth between different groups and individuals, and the processes that create, sustain, and transform these relationships over time
Political economy analysis reflect the belief that political concerns and economic concerns are part of and shape the development process and result from the constant bargaining that takes place over the use of limited resources in any country and any context.
We cannot think or try to understand social and economic problems without considering the inference that politics, incentives, and power structures have on those problems.
These studies are often commissioned as part of the design or international cooperation programme. The use of political economy finings varies. Sometimes they are one-off studies which are then put on a shelf. Other times, they inform discussions within programme teams and partners on the best ways forward.
These studies usually involve a team spread across different countries, some travels, and several months of work to review existing literature, conduct interviews of key informants, analyse the data, and write a report. I know this because I have led some political economy studies myself.
A few months ago, Cecilia Lutrell, sent me a paper by Pablo Yanguas that describes different ways to do political economy depending on the time and resources available: Making political analysis useful: Adjusting and scaling.
His main point is that political economy studies have to be useful. In order to be useful, they need to consider and adapt to the needs of a team, a programme and the resources available. In the paper he describes:
- One hour political economy studies
- One week of political economy studies
- One month of political economy studies
I was a bit challenged by Yanguas’s suggestions. I realised I was too stuck on one way to to political economy and that we need to be adaptive and responsive to needs and consriucmatcnes when teend as ocindctign thes etsuides. Yanguas paper gave me soem concrete ideas on how to to that.
Then, a few weeks later, I was in the gym and listened to the One & Tooze podcast. To me Adam Tooze presented essentially a political economy of Italian politics which seems to me a very good example of a quick but insightful political economy of Italian politics. he must have prepared before teh podcast recording. He has accessed some relevant information nd resource sand summarised them for the episode.
Poltiical eocnpocmy cna be quick and insightbullf at the same time.
Anyhow, here the link to the full episode: Mario Draghi’s resignation means for Italy and Europe.
As always, please let me know what you think.
Photo credit: Ruslan Bardash on Unsplash