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The Conceptual Roots of Work Effort in Pre-classical and Classical Economic Thought

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  • Drakopoulos, Stavros A.
  • Karayiannis, Anastassios

Abstract

In modern literature, the concept of work effort is used as an additional explanation of involuntary unemployment. In particular, it is assumed that higher wages have a positive effect on work effort and this is the fundamental point of the efficiency wage models of involuntary unemployment. However, as it is often the case, the concept of the workers' effort was not new but it was an idea that can be found in the works of a number of pre-classical and classical economists. This paper discusses the conceptual roots of the idea from the late 17th until the middle of the 19th centuries. For instance, there is evidence of the connection between wages, work effort and consumption in the works of North, Hume, Steuart, Smith, Young, Crumpe, Ricardo, Senior, McCulloch, Babbage, Longfield, J.S. Mill and others. The paper also assesses the similarities and differences of their views with current approaches to work effort.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 14050.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Publication status: Published in Archives of Economic History 2.18(2006): pp. 27-44
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:14050

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Keywords: work effort; wage rate; pre-classical thought; classical thought;

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  1. Yellen, Janet L, 1984. "Efficiency Wage Models of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 200-205, May.
  2. Drakopoulos, S. A. & Karayiannis, A. D., 2004. "The Historical Development of Hierarchical Behavior in Economic Thought," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(03), pages 363-378, September.
  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. Davide Fiaschi & Rodolfo Signorino, 2003. "Consumption patterns, development and growth: Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Thomas Robert Malthus," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(1), pages 5-24.
  5. Brewer, Anthony, 1998. "Luxury and Economic Development: David Hume and Adam Smith," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 45(1), pages 78-98, February.
  6. A. W. Coats, 1958. "Changing Attitudes To Labour In The Mid-Eighteenth Century," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 11(1), pages 35-51, 08.
  7. Malcomson, James M, 1981. "Unemployment and the Efficiency Wage Hypothesis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 91(364), pages 848-66, December.
  8. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173, September.
  9. Solow, Robert M., 1979. "Another possible source of wage stickiness," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 79-82.
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