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Value Lecture Series

Past Seminar from the archive

  • Topic: The Value of Thought Leadership in Economics - The Case of Burma

HDR Value Lecture Series 2011

This year the Faculty of Business and Economics is continuing its public lecture series examining the topic of “Value” delivered by senior academics within the Faculty.


Conventional wisdom amongst economists is that economic prosperity and ‘interconnectedness’ breeds peace within, and between, nations. This idea, in various guises tends to be similarly assumed by Western politicians, international agencies, NGOs, and the media. It shapes policy towards non-democratic regimes – through a trope that argues that political progress will come through engagement, trade and other means that create a democracy-minded, and conflict avoiding, middle class. However contemporary thinking regarding measures of prosperity and political progress, including the importance of economic freedom, corruption indexes, human development and tourism indicators, are becoming just as important as traditional GDP in analysing a country’s real economic ‘value’ in contemporary society.

Research undertaken here at Macquarie would suggest that traditional measures of economic prosperity, including GDP, are too sanguine, incomplete and fails to account for social criteria, thereby masking and impeding more complete measures of economic success. Our research, centered upon present-day Burma but inclusive of scholarship covering broader historical and contemporary experience, finds that authoritarian regimes are often fortified through economic transactions in ways that postpone, rather than promote, more liberal polities, and that socio-economic indicators are better placed to (1) measure real prosperity, and (2) stimulate social and political change. 

In this presentation we will explore some of these interactions between economics, politics, and transition, and along the way examine issues (such as the usefulness or otherwise of economic sanctions) that are at the forefront of contemporary political economy – both in theory and in practice. Methodological and ethical issues surrounding research on non-democratic and/or ‘emerging’ countries will be explored, and prospects offered for future socio economic research in this context.


A former Senior Analyst at the Reserve Bank of Australia, Sean Turnell joined the Economics Department in 1991.

His research interests include Burma and its economy, financial sector reform in developing countries, the history of global monetary institutions, and the history of Australian economic thought.

Sean Turnell has published in numerous international journals on these and other topics, including ASEAN Economic Bulletin, Asian-Pacific Economic Literature, Asian Studies Review, Asian Survey, Australian Economic History Review, Bijdragen tot de Taal, Land-en Volkenkunde, Economic and Labour Relations Review, Economic and Political Weekly, the Economic Record, Asian Economic Policy Review, History of Economics Review, and the  Journal of Economic History. His work has been cited by media all around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist,  New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Times, Australian Financial Review, The Australian and many others. He has made many appearances in the electronic media, including the BBC, ABC, SBS, Bloomberg Television, CNN, Al-Jazeera, Sky-News and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Watch the previous lecture in the series here!

YouTube Video for The Value of Thought Leadership in Accounting by Professor James Guthrie


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