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Guard Labor: An Essay in Honor of Pranab Bardhan

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Bowles & Arjun Jayadev, 2004. "Guard Labor: An Essay in Honor of Pranab Bardhan," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2004-15, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ums:papers:2004-15
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
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      by Peter Frase in peter frase on 2010-12-14 22:27:31
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    3. Guards, Workers, Machines
      by Peter Frase in Peter Frase on 2014-02-17 23:27:10

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    1. Arjun Jayadev, "undated". "Estimating Guard Labor," Working Papers 7, University of Massachusetts Boston, Economics Department.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    enforcement rents; institutions; guard labor; supervision; social conflict; labor-management;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • P50 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - General
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Modern Monetary Theory;
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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