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Guard Labor: An Essay in Honor of Pranab Bardhan

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  • Samuel Bowles

    ()
    (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

  • Arjun Jayadev

    ()
    (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Abstract

We explore the exercise of power in perpetuating status quo institutions. We give empirical examples of the economic importance of power and offer a definition of this elusive term. We then investigate the role of power in a modern capitalist economy, borrowing ideas from the classical economists (unproductive labor, profit-driven investment), Marx (the labor-disciplining effect of unemployment) and the contemporary theory of incomplete contracts(the role of monitoring and enforcement rents). Our model suggests that a significant portion of an economy's productive potential may be devoted to the exercise of power and to the perpetuation of social relationships of domination and subordination. We then measure these resources in labor units using the concept of guard labor, finding it to be a significant and growing fraction of the U.S. labor force. We also document substantial cross national differences in the extent of guard labor and the strong statistical association between the extent of income inequality and the fraction of the labor force that is constituted by guard labor. We close with some speculations concerning the role of guard labor in the process of economic development and how economies might function better with more carrot and less stick.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics in its series UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers with number 2004-15.

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Date of creation: Dec 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ums:papers:2004-15

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Keywords: enforcement rents; institutions; guard labor; supervision; social conflict; labor-management;

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  1. Bowles, Samuel & Gintis, Herbert, 1988. "Contested Exchange: Political Economy and Modern Economic Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 145-50, May.
  2. Basu, Kaushik, 2003. "Prelude to Political Economy: A Study of the Social and Political Foundations of Economics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199261857.
  3. Toufique, Kazi Ali, 1997. "Some observations on power and property rights in the inland fisheries of Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 457-467, March.
  4. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Scholarly Articles 4554125, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Simon G�chter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
  6. Pranab Bardhan & Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 1998. "Wealth Inequality, Wealth Constraints and Economic Performance," Microeconomics 9805002, EconWPA.
  7. Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs, 2001. "On the Nature of Fair Behaviour," CEPR Discussion Papers 2984, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Schor, Juliet B & Bowles, Samuel, 1987. "Employment Rents and the Incidence of Strikes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(4), pages 584-92, November.
  9. Raphael, Steven & WINTER-EBMER, RUDOLF, 1998. "Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt5hb4h56g, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  10. Bowles, Samuel, 1986. "The Production Process in a Competitive Economy: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1203-04, December.
  11. Marcel Fafchamps & Måns Söderbom, 2004. "Wages and Labor Management in African Manufacturing," CSAE Working Paper Series 2004-02, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  12. Lundberg, S. & Pollak, R.A., 1991. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 91-08, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  13. George P. Baker & Thomas N. Hubbard, 2003. "Make Versus Buy in Trucking: Asset Ownership, Job Design, and Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 551-572, June.
  14. Gordon, David M, 1994. "Bosses of Different Stripes: A Cross-National Perspective on Monitoring and Supervision," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 375-79, May.
  15. Roger Myerson & Serguey Braguinsky, 2005. "Oligarchic Property Rights and Investment," 2005 Meeting Papers 49, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  16. Arjun Jayadev, . "Estimating Guard Labor," Working Papers 7, University of Massachusetts Boston, Economics Department.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Anti-Star Trek: A Theory of Posterity
    by Peter Frase in peter frase on 2010-12-14 16:27:31
  2. Future legends
    by Rob Horning in Marginal Utility (Tom Bozzo) (The New Inquiry) on 2012-06-15 18:39:08
  3. Guards, Workers, Machines
    by Peter Frase in Peter Frase on 2014-02-17 17:27:10
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Cited by:
  1. Arjun Jayadev, . "Estimating Guard Labor," Working Papers 7, University of Massachusetts Boston, Economics Department.

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