IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v7y1993i1p83-102.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Revenge of Homo Economicus: Contested Exchange and the Revival of Political Economy

Author

Listed:
  • Samuel Bowles
  • Herbert Gintis

Abstract

Recent developments in microeconomic theory have shown that the self-interested behavior underlying neoclassical theory is artificially truncated: it depicts a charmingly Victorian but Utopian world in which conflicts abound but a handshake is a handshake. But a handshake is not always a handshake. Studies of principal-agent analysis, the economics of information, radical political economy, mechanism design, and transactions cost economics have all focused on the difficulties involved in policing and enforcing the actual process of market exchange. Abandoning the Victorian world of neoclassical theory will redirect economists to an older conception of their profession: what once was called political economy. By taking optimizing more seriously, post-Walrasian economics has inspired a revolution in economic thought fostering both new theoretical departures and alternative conceptions of the capitalist economy. We will offer our own interpretation of this literature, focusing on the widely recognized fact that the terms arising from exchange are not generally enforceable at zero cost to the exchanging parties. Where some aspect of the good or service supplied is both valuable to the buyer and costly to provide, the absence of third-party enforcement of claims gives rise to endogenous enforcement strategies. We refer to this relationship as a "contested exchange" because, unlike the transactions of Walrasian economics, the benefit the parties derive from the transaction depends on their own capacities to enforce competing claims.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 1993. "The Revenge of Homo Economicus: Contested Exchange and the Revival of Political Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 83-102, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:7:y:1993:i:1:p:83-102
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.7.1.83
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.7.1.83
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Pranab Bardhan & John E. Roemer, 1992. "Market Socialism: A Case for Rejuvenation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 101-116, Summer.
    2. Herbert Gintis, 1972. "A Radical Analysis of Welfare Economics and Individual Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(4), pages 572-599.
    3. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
    4. Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1981. "Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 393-410, June.
    5. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1987. "The Causes and Consequences of the Dependence of Quality on Price," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 1-48, March.
    6. Lerner, Abba P, 1972. "The Economics and Politics of Consumer Sovereignty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(2), pages 258-266, May.
    7. 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 584-592, November.
    8. Sugden, Robert, 1989. "Spontaneous Order," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 85-97, Fall.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D00 - Microeconomics - - General - - - General
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • B20 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - General

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:7:y:1993:i:1:p:83-102. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael P. Albert). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.