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Shirking the Issue? Efficiency wages, work discipline and full employment

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  • David Spencer

Abstract

This paper assesses recent neoclassical and radical contributions to the analysis of unemployment as a labour disciplinary device, in particular, those of Shapiro & Stiglitz and Bowles & Gintis. These authors share a common set of premises, notably on the conception of the effort decision, that present severe obstacles to the understanding of productivity constraints on full employment. The models of Shapiro & Stiglitz and Bowles & Gintis identify a specific 'asymptote problem' in which the achievement of full employment immediately triggers infinite (and hence unsustainable) wage increases. The premise that workers find work subjectively costly to perform effectively rules out the possibility for full employment. But this view fails to take into account the actual constitution of work motives. To the extent that work effort may be induced independently of dismissal threats, high work intensity may in fact be undermined by high unemployment. By taking work avoidance as given, the labour extraction literature forecloses consideration of the possibilities offered by alternative work organisation for removing unemployment as a worker disciplinary device.

Suggested Citation

  • David Spencer, 2002. "Shirking the Issue? Efficiency wages, work discipline and full employment," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(3), pages 313-327.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:14:y:2002:i:3:p:313-327
    DOI: 10.1080/09538250220147868
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. David Spencer, 2003. "Love's labor's lost? the disutility of work and work avoidance in the economic analysis of labor supply," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 61(2), pages 235-250.

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