URI Economics Professor Richard McIntyre wins fellowship to study labor issues in France next year

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KINGSTON, R.I., May 26, 2016—Richard McIntyre has spent much of his career studying labor issues throughout the world. Now, the University of Rhode Island economist is turning his attention to France—once again.

McIntyre, chair of URI’s economics department, has received the prestigious Visiting Chair of the Americas at the Institut des Ameriques in Rennes, France.

He’ll spend March and April 2017 in the French city, researching cooperatively managed enterprises in the country and comparing them to ones in the United States. He’ll also lecture about his travels to Cuba, which he has visited many times.

“The entire country of Cuba is now a laboratory for social change,” says McIntyre, who is also co-director of the URI in Cuba Program. “The government knows things cannot continue as they are, but officials learned what not to do by watching the Russians. They are trying to find a middle way between state socialism and free market capitalism. France, of course, is a wealthy country but it, too, is under pressure to change. Cooperativism may hold promise in both countries.”

Founded in 2003, the Rennes institute is a partner of the Institute of the Americas, an international project created in 2007 that is made up of 47 higher education and research institutions.

The institute’s goal is to bring together researchers and academics from North America, South America and the Caribbean, and connect them with scholars in France. Prominent concerns at the institute include environmental challenges, American cultures, and the economic impact of globalization.

A nationally renowned labor expert, McIntyre has a long-time commitment to the challenges and issues facing working men and women throughout the world.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college,” he says. “My grandfather was a bartender and chauffeur. I’m interested in the problems regular people face. In the 1970s, we called it de-industrialization. Now it’s called globalization.”

The focus of his life’s research, he says, is to “speak to the public as well as academia” and support the “working person who is trying to get by in an increasingly difficult world.”

Raised in upstate New York and Rhode Island, McIntyre graduated from URI in 1979 with a degree in economics and political science and earned his doctorate in economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. There, he studied the rhetoric surrounding the decline of the steel industry in the United States.

He joined URI’s economics department in 1987, continuing his labor research as a faculty member of the Schmidt Labor Research Center. These days, he writes about the comparative political economy of 20th and 21st century capitalism with a focus on the United States since the New Deal, value and values in global commodity chains, and corporate governance.

France and its state-guided economy have always fascinated him. He first visited the country in 2002 as a visiting professor at the École Normale Supérieure de Cachan, near Paris.

His research was on globalization, specifically, American policy toward foreign labor practices. He also studied the “economy of conventions,” an economic theory that assumes people behave on the basis of social conventions rather than rational choice.

“My studies were around sweatshops,” he says. “I questioned why people would buy things made under conditions that they themselves would never accept.”

That research led to his first book, Are Worker Rights Human Rights? He’s been back to France three times as a university lecturer at Lyons, Le Havre, and Marseille. His French, he says, is “good enough” to give a lecture.

“I can give a talk in French,” he says. “But I can’t do a question-and-answer session. If I do that, it has to be in English.”

At URI, McIntyre teaches economics, political science and employment relations. He is co-editing a book, Marxism without Guarantees: Economics, Knowledge and Class, which will be published in 2017, and he edits the New Political Economy book series for Routledge Publishers.

In addition to universities in France, he has also been a visiting lecturer at Novgorod State University in Russia and many universities in the United States including Harvard; the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

He directed the URI’s Honors Program from 2006 to 2013. In 1997, he won the URI Foundation’s award for teaching excellence. He is the trade representative in the Green Party’s Shadow Cabinet.

“I’m excited to be able to pursue my own work while deepening URI’s international connections and building on our relationships in Rennes for faculty and student exchange,” he says. “Understanding what is happening in poor as well as rich countries around the globe gives us perspective on our own situation.”

Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says McIntyre is one of URI’s “most outstanding teachers and talented global professors.”

“He recognizes that we are no longer just preparing students for Rhode Island, but need to educate them to become effective global professionals no matter where they live and work,” she says. “He continues to build on his knowledge of other languages, cultures, political systems and economies to enhance his teaching and research, and he leads study abroad programs to ensure our students gain the best global education possible.”

During a short trip in late April, McIntyre went to Paris and Rennes with a team of URI faculty and administrators, including Brownell. Together, with colleagues at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Rennes (Sciences-Po Rennes), Rennes 1 University, Rennes 2 University and Mod’Spe in Paris, they toured facilities, learned updated information on the people and programs available and met with faculty and administrators at each institution. They also reviewed existing URI partnerships to renew and develop opportunities for study abroad and create possibilities for collaborative research among faculty.

Pictured above: Richard McIntyre, chair of the economics department at the University of Rhode Island who won the Visiting Chair of the Americas at the Institut des Ameriques in Rennes, France. He’ll study in France for two months next year.

Photo by Michael Salerno.