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Guard Labor: An Essay in Honor of Pranab Bardhan

  • Samuel Bowles

    ()

    (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

  • Arjun Jayadev

    ()

    (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

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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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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  1. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 95-8, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Raphael, Steven & Winter-Ember, Rudolf, 2001. "Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 259-83, April.
  3. 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.
  4. Bowles, Samuel & Gordon, David M & Weisskopf, Thomas E, 1989. "Business Ascendancy and Economic Impasse: A Structural Retrospective on Conservative Economics, 1979-87," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 107-34, Winter.
  5. Bardhan, Pranab & Bowles, Samuel & Gintis, Herbert, 1999. "Wealth Inequality, Wealth Constraints and Economic Performance," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt3bh899fh, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  6. Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis., 1988. "Contested Exchange: Political Economy and Modern Economic Theory," Economics Working Papers 8876, University of California at Berkeley.
  7. Marcel Fafchamps & Måns Söderbom, 2004. "Wages and Labor Management in African Manufacturing," Development and Comp Systems 0409043, EconWPA.
  8. 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.
  9. Arjun Jayadev, . "Estimating Guard Labor," Working Papers 7, University of Massachusetts Boston, Economics Department.
  10. Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, . "On the Nature of Fair Behavior," IEW - Working Papers 017, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  11. Basu, Kaushik, 2000. "Prelude to Political Economy: A Study of the Social and Political Foundations of Economics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296713, March.
  12. Bowles, Samuel, 1986. "The Production Process in a Competitive Economy: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1203-04, December.
  13. Manishi Prasad & Peter Wahlqvist & Rich Shikiar & Ya-Chen Tina Shih, 2004. "A," PharmacoEconomics, Springer Healthcare | Adis, vol. 22(4), pages 225-244.
  14. 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.
  15. Roger Myerson & Serguey Braguinsky, 2005. "Oligarchic Property Rights and Investment," 2005 Meeting Papers 49, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  16. Giorgio Brosio & Harold M. Hochman (ed.), 1998. "economic justice," Books, Edward Elgar, volume 0, number 1340, March.
  17. 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.
  18. Lanjouw, Peter & Stern, Nicholas, 1998. "Economic Development in Palanpur over Five Decades," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288329, March.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
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