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Involuntary Unemployment : the Elusive Quest for a Theory

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  • Michel, DE VROEY

    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES))

Abstract

This paper addresses the issue of why Keynesian economists have had such a hard time in giving the concept of involuntary unemployment a place in economic theory. Is the gradual demise of this concept a manifestation of some inner defect in economic theory or is it due to some intrinsic weakness in the concept itself, which limits its usefulness when it comes to economic theorising? I have recently published a book which attempts to answer this question, and my aim in this paper is to present its main results. I start by characteristing Keynes’s programme as consisting of the following four elements : 1) demonstrating the existence of involuntary unemployment; 2) demonstrating that wage rigidity can be exonerated as its cause; 3) giving a general equilibrium or interdependency explanation of the phenomenon; 4) demonstrating that demand stimulation is the proper remedy for the problem. Next, I bring out four conceptual ambiguities that have plagued discussions about involuntary unemployment : the confusion between involuntary unemployment and underemployment; the confusion between involuntary unemployment in the individual disiquilibrium sense and involuntary unemployment in the frustration sense; a loose understanding of the notion of full emplyment; and, finally, a less than rigorous definition of the notion of rigidity. The paper continues by presenting my arguments on whether different types of New Keynesian modesls (implicit contracts, efficiency wages, coordination failures and imperfect competition) have succeeded in achieving Keynes’s programme. My conclusion is that they all fail on at least one of its items. In the final section of this paper, I speculate on whether it is still worthwhile for economists with a Keynesian inclination to keep fighting in defence of involuntary unemployment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques in its series Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) with number 2005004.

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Length: 25
Date of creation: 01 Feb 2005
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Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvec:2005004

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Keywords: Keynes; Involuntary Unemployment; New keynesian Theory;

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References

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  1. Roberts, John, 1987. "An Equilibrium Model with Involuntary Unemployment at Flexible, Competitive Prices and Wages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 856-74, December.
  2. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1985. "Can Unemployment Be Involuntary? Reply [Equilibrium Unemployemnt as a Worker Discipline Device]," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1215-17, December.
  3. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  4. Howitt, Peter, 1985. "Transaction Costs in the Theory of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 88-100, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Michel DE VROEY & Pierre MALGRANGE, 2010. "From The Keynesian Revolution to the Klein-Goldberger Model: Klein and the Dynamization of Keynesian Theory," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2010019, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  2. Michel DE VROEY, 2010. "Microfoundations: a decisive dividing line between Keynesian and new classical macroeconomics?," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2010030, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  3. Rodolphe Dos Santos Ferreira, 2013. "Mr. Keynes, the Classics and the new Keynesians: A suggested formalization," Working Papers of BETA 2013-16, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
  4. Michel DE VROEY, 2014. "Backhouse and Boianovsky on 'disequilibrium theory'. A review article of Transforming modern macroeconomics. Exploring disequilibrium microfoundations, 1956-2003," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2014006, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  5. Goulven Rubin, 2011. "Oskar Lange and the influence of Walrasian theory during the Keynesian revolution," Working Papers halshs-00817758, HAL.
  6. Michel DE VROEY, 2010. "Lucas on the relationship between theory and ideology," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2010031, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  7. Michel de Vroey, 2005. "Have the Early Coordination Failures Models Achieved Keynes's Programme ?," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 0(4), pages 417-436.
  8. De Vroey Michel R & Pensieroso Luca, 2006. "Real Business Cycle Theory and the Great Depression: The Abandonment of the Abstentionist Viewpoint," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 1-26, November.
  9. Mauro Boianovsky & Roger Backhouse, 2006. "Whatever Happened To Microfoundations?," Anais do XXXIV Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 34th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 76, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
  10. Brian Snowdon, 2007. "The New Classical Counter-Revolution: False Path or Illuminating Complement?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 541-562, Fall.
  11. Roger Backhouse & Mauro Boianovsky, 2005. "Disequilibrium Macroeconomics: An Episode In The Transformation Of Modern Macroeconomics," Anais do XXXIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 33th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 012, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
  12. Sawyer, Malcolm & Spencer, David, 2008. "On the definition of involuntary unemployment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 718-735, April.
  13. Michel DE VROEY, 2010. "Lucas on the Lucasian transformation of macroeconomics: an assessment," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2010032, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  14. Olivier Favereau, 2005. "Have the Early Coordination Failures Models Achieved Keynes's Programme ?. by MichelDe Vroey," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 0(4), pages 437-440.

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