Background to the conference

This new WEA online conference is organized in cooperation with the Center for Market Education (CME, ). 

The Center for Market Education is an academic and educational initiative led by Dr Carmelo Ferlito and based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. CME objectives are: 1) to promote a better understanding of the driving forces of the market process and 2) to promote pluralism in economics education. 

Due to the common aim of promoting pluralism in economics, and to the different geographic reach of the two institutions, WEA and CME believe that a common initiative would bring an added value to the debate within the discipline and even set the pace of the discussion on what economics has to say about what we called the great lockdown.

CME is led by Dr Carmelo Ferlito and is animated by scholars from around the world (); in the past months it promoted important initiatives in the field of economics () and launched an educational paper series (). In 2021, CME will launch economics modules inspired by the principles of pluralism and multidisciplinarity, in cooperation with Taylor’s University Malaysia. 


At the beginning of 2020, the outbreak of Covid-19 and the lockdown policies imposed worldwide generated a global economic crisis which challenges the traditional explanations of economic downturns and the way we are used to understand and handle business cycles. This is all the more true as the great lockdown arose from the ashes of the 2008 Financial Crisis before the healing of the previous woes. 

Some structural flaws of the global economic system, such as the inherent instability of the financial system and the flaws in the monetary policy governance, were far to be addressed. The process of growth seemed to have reached an halt, in particular in the Western world, posing threats to the living conditions of the lower income classes, which found in many cases forced to fall into a debt trap, when also resources for public spending became less and less available.  

The global health crisis and the lockdowns which followed had negative implications for economic growth and democratic institutions since its evolution has been deeply affecting social cohesion and political stability. At the core of a diversity of lockdown strategies, there is a trade-off between re-opening the economies and fighting the virus.

While the lockdown has been the almost generalized answer to the health crisis, it was put in place in the framework of very different healthcare systems, which present different degrees of promptness to handle emergencies. At the same time, the social safety net in different countries is indeed far from being homogeneous. Therefore, it is only natural that the results of the fight against the virus, both from an economic perspective and a health one, are so differentiated. 

While challenging the healthcare and economic systems, the outcomes of the coronavirus crisis call also for a reflection on the contemporary threats to individual freedom, control on individuals and insecurity in social interrelations. New power mechanisms that rely on behavioural data are deeply interconnecting state surveillance, personal devices and corporations in a global context where democratic institutions are being threatened.

Looking back, soon after the start of the 2008 global financial crisis, central banks in the US and European Union focused on lender-of-last-resort program extensions and dealt with multiple challenges: how to prevent a recessionary downturn, how to avoid asset and credit bubbles and inflationary pressures. The unprecedented actions of the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and the Bank of England, for example, suggested the need to rethink the traditional scope of the lender of last resort. The scope of the central banks’ interventions was expanded in order to include not only the provision of liquidity as lender of last resort, but also to include the expansion of repurchase agreements as buyer of last resort and the supply of liquidity to specific markets as market maker of last resort.

However, in the current Covid-19 scenario, the lack of global joint actions reveals that the world increasingly lacks supranational solutions to supranational or transnational problems. And the debate about the effectiveness of centralized vs decentralized decision processes, with emphasis on the role of states or of the civil society, remains very much open.

At the same time, the pandemic has put in the spot – and questioned – the role of “experts” and their fallibility. 

The coronavirus crisis relates to an economic and socio-cultural process that is provoking changes in scientific thinking and modes of governance. Therefore, the outcomes of Covid-19 call for a pluralist reflection about current knowledge in economic crises in terms of theories and instruments.

The Conference aims to discuss recent contributions to the understanding of the Covid-19 economic crisis and its “lockdown” governance in terms of its consequences for policy making, business trends and social challenges. The conference also focuses on bridging the gap between different economic theoretical approaches and the practical applications of economic theories. Related topics include ethics, safety, and governance.

Topics include (but are not limited to):

  • The diversity of responses to the global Covid-19 crisis.
  • The Great Lockdown and economic theoretical approaches: advances and challenges. 
  • Economics and epidemiology: the twin economic and health crises in retrospect and today.
  • Time Series Data & Data for Prediction in Economics: conceptualization the “normal”.
  • The impact of the Great Lockdown on business transformations, competition and economic growth. 
  • The Great Lockdown and the digital economy: the acceleration of disruptive innovations. 
  • The Great Lockdown and social inequality: labour, migration, gender and food challenges.
  • Geopolitical outcomes of the Great Lockdown.
  • Building resilience: rethinking economic theories and instruments.
  • The Great Lockdown and the role of experts.
  • Facing a community crisis: centralized vs decentralized answers.
  • Autarkic answers vs free trade policies. 

An important innovation

For the first time, this conference will be open to contributions from students in the forms described in the call for papers. We believe that such an innovation could not only enrich the debate and respond to an educational mission, but also enhance the understanding of the topic with the help and support from new technologies.