Consumed in Theory: Alternative Perspectives on the Economics of Consumption
Economics has been almost unaffected by the recent revival of interdisciplinary studies of consumption. Yet the rigid, unrealistic neoclassical model of consumer behavior is badly in need of change. Three key assumptions define the neoclassical approach: asocial individualism (or exogenous preferences); insatiability of material desires; and commodity orientation (consumer desires are expressed in terms of commodities rather than experiences). This article reviews the long history of critiques and alternatives to each of these assumptions within the economics literature, suggesting that thee is ample basis for the creation of a more realistic economic theory of consumption. J. Econ. Issues, September, 1997, pp. 651-664, Tufts, University, Medford, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Theoretical Issues of Gender in the Transition from Socialist Regimes
Most studies of reforms in
Eastern and Central Europe fail to consider the gendered impact of the
transition. This paper summarizes research showing that women bear a
disproportionate share of the costs of adjustment. Alternative views
of the role of gender in the theoretical frameworks and social
practices of Western liberal democracies and the former socialist
regimes in the East are discussed. Different historical and
instituitonal backgrounds, the lack of a shared understanding of the
role of gender, and of a common language in which to articulate
gender-related concerns and policies, make an East-West dialogue
difficult. Journal of Econ. Issues, March, 1997, pp.
665-686, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, U.S.A.
Mutari, Ellen and Figart, Deborah M.
Markets, Flexibility, and Family: Evaluating the Gendered Discourse Against Pay Equity
Business have expanded use of relatively
inexpensive women's labor in response to economic restructuring.
Feminization to achieve labor market flexibility has transformed
"good" jobs (gendered male) into "bad" jobs (gendered female).
Women's economic roles are revealed as a point of contradiction among
pay equity opponents, as conservatives wrestle with the centrality of
women's paid employment. The formerly hegemonic ideal of the male
breadwinner family appears under question, suggesting an opportune
movement for redefining gender relations through strategies such as
living wage campaigns. J. Econ. Issues, September, 1997, pp. 687-705, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey,
U.S.A.; Richard Stockton College, Pomona, New Jersey, U. S.A.
Kim, Marlene and Mergoupis, Thanos
The Working Poor and Welfare Recipiency: Participation, Evidence, and Policy Directions
Two-thirds of the working poor who qualify for Food Stamps, and
one-third of those who have qualified for AFDC, have not received
benefits. The working poor do not take advantage, fair or unfair, of
government assistance and failure to receive benefits is not due to
lack of need. The working poor are surprisingly similar to the
general population in demographic characteristics and are not unusual
in work ethic, family composition, or education. Their low-paid,
unstable jobs relegate them to the ranks of poverty. Policies that
address the low pay and job instability will provide real assistance.
J. Econ. Issues, September, 1997, pp. 707-728, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A.; London
School of Economics, London, England.
How Institutions Learn: A Socio-Cognitive Perspective
With advances in cognitive psychology, there exists an
empirically well-founded understanding of how individuals process
information which allows us to avoid reducing the human mind to a
black box. This allows understanding of the complexity underlying
human choice and social processes. Traditional institutionalist
theory is based on a somewhat reductionist perspective. Although
institutionalist thought paralleled the early development of
psychology, recent contributions to cognitive psychology have yet to
be incorporated. The purpose of this paper is to suggest ways of
incorporation. J. Econ. Issues, September, 1997, pp.
729-740, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm,
Carlson, Mathieu J.
Mirowski's Thesis and the "Integrability Problem" in Neoclassical Economics
Mirowski's thesis that neoclassical economic theory originated as a
metaphorical appropriation of mid-nineteenth century physics. If the
metaphor is developed consistently, fulfillment of the "integrability
conditions" entails the "conservation" of a constant "sum" of
potential utility and expenditure. This paper views neoclassical
theory not as metaphor, but as substantive theory. The problems
associated with "integrability" are not undesired by-products of a
model, but an epistemological dilemma implicit in the theory's
"Cartesian" epistemic framework. In systematically relating the
physical movements of commodities in exchange to subjective
preference mappings, the theory illegitimately straddles the
Cartesian mid-body opposition. J. Econ. Issues, September, 1997, pp. 741-760, New School for Social Research, New York
City, New York, U.S.A.
The Political Coase Theorem: Identifying Differences Between Neoclassical And Critical Institutionalism
Institutional analysis contains within it two
distinct intellectual streams, which this paper refers to as
"neoclassical" and "critical" institutionalism. Three sets of issues
are discussed to draw out the methodological differences between
these traditions: their evaluation of institutional performance;
their explanations for the sources of, and impediments to,
instituitonal change; and the importance of the initial distribution
of "political entitlements" in their analysis of outcomes. The
political Coase theorem is the neoclassical attempt to extend the
logic of bargaining and exchange from the economic market to
politics, an attempt that leads to a neglect of power and
distributional variables. J. Econ. Issues, September, 1997, pp. 761-779, Mansfield College, Oxford University,
The Nature of Transaction Cost Economics
Oliver Williamson identifies the
"operationalization" of Transaction Cost Economics as a crucial
characteristic differentiating it from heterodox perspectives, and a
decisive strength. Developments within the methodology of critical
realism show that mainstream economics is appropriately characterized
by insistence upon an untenable deductivist method. The weight and
interpretation Williamson attaches to operationalizing transaction
cost arguments suggests a commitment to deductivism. What links
transaction cost economics and economic orthodoxy is a shared
essential method, and it is precisely Williamson's acceptance of
deductivism that constrains his welcome attempts to develop within
economics more compelling treatment of human agency and social
institutions. J. Econ. Issues, September, 1997, pp.
781-803, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England
Perverse Social Capital--Some Evidence From Columbia
Three arguments are presented: (1) Social capital,
understood as a set of elements that facilitates exchange and
reinforces human capital, is not invariably a productive asset that
favors efficiency. (2) Perverse social capital may result from the
reward structure that predominates in society. (3) If decisions to
invest in human capital are determined by perception of the
relationship between education and income, in a society with the kind
of reward structure that has existed in Columbia, rational decisions
may lead to perverse results. J. Econ. Issues, September, 1997, pp. 805-816, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota,