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Work for all those who want it? Why the neoclassical labour supply curve is an inappropriate foundation for the theory of employment and unemployment

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  • David A. Spencer

Abstract

This paper questions the usefulness of the neoclassical labour supply curve as a factor in the theory of employment and unemployment. This curve rests on the false premise that workers can 'choose' whether to work or not, and gives credence to the idea that all unemployment constitutes chosen leisure. Despite this, it was used by Keynes to define the point of full employment. This contributed to the misleading impression that the level of full employment is determined by psychological factors. Challenging this view, Joan Robinson sought to integrate a wider set of issues into the theory of labour supply, in order to build a different (non-neoclassical) foundation for Keynes's theory of effective demand. Drawing upon Robinson, the paper argues against the use of the neoclassical labour supply curve within macroeconomic analysis. Copyright 2006, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • David A. Spencer, 2006. "Work for all those who want it? Why the neoclassical labour supply curve is an inappropriate foundation for the theory of employment and unemployment," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(3), pages 459-472, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:30:y:2006:i:3:p:459-472
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/cje/bei066
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Nadia Steiber, 2008. ""How Many Hours Would you Want to Work a Week?": Job Quality and the Omitted Variables Bias in Labour Supply Models," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 121, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    3. Kronenberg, Tobias, 2010. "Finding common ground between ecological economics and post-Keynesian economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(7), pages 1488-1494, May.
    4. Ioannidis, Yiorgos, 2011. "Employment in the Keynesian and neoliberal universe: theoretical transformations and political correlations," MPRA Paper 45062, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Élie Chosson, 2013. "Allocataires du RSA, entre retour au travail et stratégies alternatives. De l'émancipation face à la domination de la valeur," Post-Print halshs-00904287, HAL.

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