The Political Economy of Work (Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy)
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Against the background of increasing interest in the changing nature and quality of work, The Political Economy of Work offers a new and unique assessment of the theoretical analysis of work. The author challenges some common preconceptions about work and promotes an original approach to the field, contemplating the nature and development of ideas on work and its impact on human well-being drawing on such burgeoning literatures as the 'economics of happiness'.
Spencer approaches the subject through a careful examination of the history of thought on work over the last three hundred years. A key focus is the development of ideas on work in mainstream economics, starting with the mercantilists and the classical economists, and continuing with neoclassical economists (e.g. Jevons, Marshall). The contributions of modern approaches including the new 'information-theoretic' economics and the new 'economics of happiness' are also discussed. The author sees flaws in the depiction of work in mainstream economics and instead draws insight from the writings of critics of the mainstream paradigm, such as the nineteenth century 'utopian' writers (Godwin, Fourier, Carlyle, Ruskin, Morris), Marx, and the old institutional economists (Commons, Veblen). The alternative approach outlined in the book stresses the barriers to rewarding work under capitalism and develops a case for radical change in the organisation of work.
The book cuts across different disciplinary boundaries and is likely to appeal to researchers in a number of different fields, including labour economics, labour history, the sociology of work, industrial relations, and human resource management. It will appeal to all those who wish to promote a more critical understanding of the role that work can and ought to play in society.
23, 141n Blaug, Mark 24, 25, 72 Blum, Solomon 95 Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen von 76, 77, 78 Bowles, Samuel 149n Bowman, R. 146n Boyer, George 121, 149n Braverman, Harry 3; creative approach to Marx 60–63, 65, 67; criticism of Veblen 104 Breton, Robert 41 Britain: contribution to labour economics 149n; economy in eighteenth-century 14; recent comparisons between native and East European workers 150n; welfare to work schemes 139; working hours 137 Brown, Henry Phelps 149n Burawoy, Michael 65, 123–24
simply to meet their basic needs and had no desire to work for its own sake. In the sweat of thy brow 23 J.R. McCulloch invoked the language and rhetoric of the Bible in arguing that work was by necessity a pain: The consumption of wealth is indispensable to existence; but the external law of Providence has decreed, that wealth can only be procured by industry; that man must earn his bread in the sweat of his brow. (McCulloch 1849: 7) McCulloch, like Malthus, was a believer in the role of
however, he argued against his proposals for social reform. Carlyle wished to return society to the feudal age in which each individual was assigned to a ﬁxed role in the social hierarchy and was governed by strong leadership. He blamed the policy of laissez-faire for creating an idle and dissolute workforce, and invoked the ‘gospel of work’ to justify the reestablishment of the compulsion to work. Mill objected that Carlyle promised only tyranny for the masses. Carlyle had committed ‘the vulgar
control over their labour. Although serfs had not been able to fully determine their labour in earlier feudal society, this paled into insigniﬁcance as compared with the alienation suﬀered by the working class under capitalism. The private ownership of the means of production meant that the majority of people in society were now unable to meet their needs through their own labour and instead were forced to undertake paid work in order to survive. This situation, Marx believed, had come to exert a
conceptual principles remain as in older mainstream research. Writers such as Fine (2002) thus have pointed to the continued commitment to methodological individualism in the work of Lazear and other mainstream labour economists. As will be argued below, perspectives such as transaction costs economics and personnel economics face acute problems in dealing with important social phenomena in the workplace. Production politics A number of facets of modern mainstream economic theories of work can