On Thursday 12 October 2023, LSE welcomed back its doctoral alumni Eric Helleiner, today Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo. In front of an attentive audience of students, friends and colleagues, Professor Helleiner presented his newly published book The Contested World Economy on the pre-1945 history of the field of International Political Economy (IPE). Chairing the event was Professor Robert Falkner, Professor of International Relations at LSE, who opened the floor by introducing the speaker’s formidable academic output and the rising star of the discussant – Dr Natalya Naqvi, Associate Professor of IPE at LSE.
L to R: Natalya Naqvi, Eric Helleiner, Robert Falkner (Chair)
Professor Helleiner began by expressing his gratitude to Susan Strange, his doctoral supervisor at LSE, and with much appreciated words of encouragement for the attending students. His presentation placed the work within the movement for a more global intellectual history of our discipline and simultaneously succeeded in convincing me that its contributions are not merely of historical interest.
The book sheds light on underappreciated non-Western thinkers whose works continue to influence policymakers in their countries, today key players in the world economy. It aims to expand the traditional debate in the field to include “new” perspectives like environmentalism or feminism that turn out to have much deeper roots. And as Dr Naqvi pointed out, it decisively debunks the idea that underdeveloped regions only passively imported ideas from the West.
[The book] decisively debunks the idea that underdeveloped regions only passively imported ideas from the West.
Questions from the discussant and the audience verged into practical implications for contemporary IPE. Professor Helleiner voiced regret that many non-Western perspectives were sidelined in the post-war era but opposed notions of mandating how lecturers should teach their courses, noting that Western scholars have provided some of the most sophisticated accounts in this sphere.
His concluding remarks left me thinking about the very nature of the field and the mystery of why it died out in Britain after World War II. Doubtless, the world of IPE is now richer because Eric Helleiner wrote this book.
Event report by Mihail Mihov, MSc International Political Economy (Research)