Towards a Cultural Political Economy is a thought-provoking book by Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop that presents a critical-realist, strategic-relational approach to political economy. The book is a continuation of their previous works, but with a focus on the semiotic dimensions of political economy. The authors argue that by integrating semiosis, which refers to sense- and meaning-making, into political economy, one can provide deeper insights into the logic of capital accumulation and its relation to social formations. This review provides a critical evaluation of the book by highlighting its key themes, arguments, and contributions.
The book focuses on two main themes. Firstly, it aims to respond to the institutional and cultural turns in political economy by placing culture in its place in political economy. Secondly, it seeks to deepen critical political economy by integrating semiosis, which provides crucial concepts and analytical tools to interpret and explain the logic of capital accumulation and its relation to the social formations in which it is embedded. The book is divided into four parts, each of which explores these themes in depth.
Part I: The Institutional and Cultural Turns in Political Economy:
In Part I, the authors provide a critical analysis of the institutional and cultural turns in political economy. They argue that these turns have led to a shift in focus from economic categories and dynamics to cultural and institutional processes. While the authors acknowledge the importance of these processes, they caution against reducing political economy to culture or institutions. They argue that cultural and institutional processes cannot be understood without considering economic categories and dynamics. Therefore, they propose a critical-realist, strategic-relational approach to political economy that integrates culture, institutions, and economics.
Part II: Semiosis and Political Economy:
In Part II, the authors introduce semiosis as a key concept in political economy. They define semiosis as sense- and meaning-making, which is the ensemble of social processes by which meanings are produce, circulated, and exchanged. Semiosis is not limite to language or discourse, but it includes a range of cultural and symbolic practices that shape economic categories and dynamics. The authors argue that integrating semiosis provides crucial concepts and analytical tools to interpret and explain even more powerfully the logic of capital accumulation and its relation to the social formations in which it is embed.
Part III: Elaborating Semiosis:
In Part III, the authors elaborate on semiosis and its relation to political economy. They explore the ways in which semiotic processes shape economic categories. Dynamics, and how these processes are embed in social formations. They also discuss the role of power in semiotic processes. How it shapes the production, circulation, and exchange of meanings. The authors illustrate their arguments with case studies from different fields, such as finance, branding, and urban governance.
Part IV: Applying Cultural Political Economy:
In Part IV, the authors apply cultural political economy to a range of issues, such as globalization, governance, and resistance. They show how cultural political economy can provide a more nuanced. Comprehensive understanding of these issues by integrating semiosis with economic categories and dynamics. The authors argue that cultural political economy can provide a framework for understanding the complexity. And diversity of social formations and their relation to global capitalism.
Towards a Cultural Political Economy makes several important contributions to political economy. Firstly, it provides a critical evaluation of the institutional. Cultural turns in political economy and proposes a strategic-relational approach that integrates culture, institutions, and economics. Secondly, it introduces semiosis as a key concept in political economy and elaborates. On its role in shaping economic categories and dynamics. Thirdly, it provides a range of case studies that illustrate the application of cultural political economy to different fields.
“Towards a Cultural Political Economy” by Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop is a significant contribution to the field of political economy. The authors offer a critical-realist, strategic-relational approach that integrates semiotics and culture into the analysis of capitalist economic systems. They provide a research program that responds to the cultural turn while maintaining the specificity of economic categories and dynamics in capitalist formations.