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Introduction to Research Themes and Projects

CPERC conducts cutting-edge academic research in the field of critical semiotic analysis, critical political economy, and critical governance studies. It promotes cultural political economy as a research paradigm which reveals the intersection between semiosis, imaginaries, political economy broadly conceived, and issues of governance and government. The aim is to explore the constitutive role of semiosis in economic and political activities, economic and political institutions, and social order more generally. CPE is a post-disciplinary approach that adopts the "cultural turn" in economic and political inquiry without neglecting the articulation of semiosis with the interconnected materialities of economics and politics within wider social formations.


Under this umbrella, researchers based at Lancaster or involved in CPE-related networks have contributed to the exploration of a number of themes in workshops, projects and publications. Among them are:

  • changing cultures of competitiveness investigated in two projects lead by Ngai-Ling Sum (see below);
  • discourses of capitalism as investigated by Norman Fairclough and Isabela Ieţcu-Fairclough;
  • moral and social economy as investigated by Andrew Sayer;
  • political imaginaries as investigated by Ruth Wodak;
  • the semiosis of financial and economic crises and repercussions on the so-called real economy as currently investigated by Bob Jessop and the project team (see below);
  • the construction and dynamics of 'BRIC' economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as investigated by Ngai-Ling Sum;
  • the Green New Deal as investigated by Ngai-Ling Sum and Michael Farrelly;
  • globalization and the knowledge-based economy, collaborative work culminating in joint publications by Fairclough, Jessop and Wodak;
  • global business governance and corporate social responsibility as investigated by Ngai-Ling Sum;
  • epistemologies of cultural political economy between critical realism and discourse analysis.


Some of the themes have been investigated within the frames of longer-term funded research projects based at CPERC. Changing Cultures of Competitiveness were explored in an ESCR Seminar Series in collaboration with a network of UK-based universities and in Sum's project on Cultures of Competitiveness in India and China which was funded by the British Academy. The cultural political economy of crisis management is currently being investigated in the frames of Bob Jessop's Great Transformations project in the frames of an ESRC Professorial Fellowship.

Cognate fields

In all these works, cultural political economy serves as theoretical orientation and valuable adjunct to other theories and methods which help to examine the interrelations among semiosis, imaginaries, political economy broadly conceived, and issues of governance, government, and governmentality. Cognate fields which inspire collaborating researchers are listed below.

Critical Semiotic Analysis

  • Argumentation theory
  • Begriffsgeschichte
  • Conceptual history (Cambridge School)
  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Critical cultural studies
  • Cultural geography
  • Cultural materialism
  • Frame analysis
  • Ideologiekritik
  • Post-colonialism and subaltern studies
  • Post-Marxism (Essex School)
  • Performance and performativity
  • Rhetoric
  • Strong Programme in Science Studies
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Subaltern studies
  • Systemic Functional linguistics

Critical Political Economy

  • Classical political economy
  • Critical accounting studies
  • Critical management studies
  • Critical organizational studies
  • Economic anthropology and sociology
  • Economic geography
  • Evolutionary political economy
  • Geo-economics and geo-politics
  • Institutional political economy
  • International political economy
  • Labour process studies
  • Material culture
  • Marxist political economy
  • Moral economy
  • Political ecology
  • Political anthropology and sociology
  • Variegated capitalism

Critical governance studies

  • Anglo-Foucauldian Theory
  • Critical planning studies
  • Critical security studies
  • Global governance
  • Good Governance
  • Governance & Governance Failure
  • Governmentality Studies
  • Historical Institutionalism
  • Köln School
  • Mediatization of politics
  • Multi-Level Governance
  • Network Theory
  • New Public Management
  • Policy network analysis
  • Reflexive Law
  • Sociological Institutionalism
  • Steering Theory

Meta-theoretical Issues

  • Actor-Network theory
  • Autopoiesis and self-organization
  • Complexity and complexity reduction
  • Conceptual idealism
  • Critical realism
  • Institutionalism
  • Instrumental realism
  • Morphogenesis
  • Organizational materialism
  • Phenomenology
  • Queer theory
  • Post-structuralism
  • Radical constructivism
  • Relational Sociology
  • Social epistemology
  • Strategic-relational approach
  • Structuration theory


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