Journal of Economic Issues

Volume 31, September 1997

Journal of Economic Issues

Volume 31, September 1997

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Ackerman, Frank

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.

Grapard, Ulla

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.

Stein, Johan

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, Sweden.

Carlson, Mathieu J.

Mirowski's Thesis and the "Integrability Problem" in Neoclassical Economics

Examines Phillip 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.

Vira, Bhaskar

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, Oxford, England.

Pratten, Stephen

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

Rubio, Mauricio

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, Columbia

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Last Updated on: Monday, September 20, 1997