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Shame and Guilt in Lancashire: Enforcing Piece Rate Contracts


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  • Michael Huberman



The ratchet effect undermines firms' ability to pay workers a steady piece rate. Using examples from the nineteenth-century British textile industry, this paper studies the different strategies firms and workers used to enforce piece rates. The strategies depended upon the emotional responses of workers, especially their relationship with their co-workers and with their employers. Following Lazear (1995), I argue that external or shame-based sanctions were prevalent in communities where workers showed indifference between the welfare of their co-workers and that of their bosses. In these cases, blacklists enforced the piece rate. Where workers felt more guilt about the welfare of their coworkers, internal sanctions were common. In guilt cultures, profit-sharing schemes enforced the established piece rate. En général, les employeurs et les employés ont de la difficulté à0501ntenir un niveau de paiement stable quand le paiement est à la pièce. En citant des exemples de l'industrie du textile britannique du 19e siècle, cet article vise à examiner les différentes approches que les acteurs ont utilisées afin de garder le niveau de paiement. Les stratégies adoptées ont dépendu des réponses émotionnelles des travailleurs et surtout de leurs relations avec leurs homologues et leurs patrons. Suivant le modèle de Lazear (1995), je suggère que les sanctions externes étaient privilégiées dans une culture de honte où les travailleurs étaient indifférents à l'égard du bien-être de leurs homologues et de celui de leurs patrons. Dans ces cultures, les acteurs ont utilisé les listes pour protéger la méthode de paiement. Là où les travailleurs ont valorisé davantage leurs relations avec leurs homologues,c'est-à-dire une culture de culpabilité, les sanctions internes étaient utilisées. Dans cette culture, un système de partage des profits était établi afin de garder la méthode de paiement.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 99s-14.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 1999
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Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:99s-14

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Keywords: Methods of pay; piece rates; profit-sharing; British economic history; Méthodes de paiement; paiement à la pièce; partage des profits; hisoire économique britannique;


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  1. Macleod, W.B. & Kenemoto, Y., 1990. "The Ratchet Effect and the Market for Second-Hand Workers," Cahiers de recherche 9027, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  2. Temin, Peter, 1997. "Is it Kosher to Talk about Culture?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(02), pages 267-287, June.
  3. Huberman,Michael, 1996. "Escape from the Market," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521561518.
  4. Douglas L. Kruse, 1993. "Profit Sharing: Does It Make a Difference?," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number ps, December.
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