Following are the contents (with abstracts) of the latest issue of Forum for Social Economics (40/3, October 2011).
The New Division of Labor in the Globalized Economy: Women’s Challenges and Opportunities, Valeria Sodano
The way in which the new international division of labor (NIDL) in the globalized economy affects gender inequalities has not been sufficiently explored yet. The body of literature on commodity chains that has attempted to assess the welfare effects of the NIDL, especially in less developed countries, has paid sparse attention to gender issues. Globalization has entailed the deverticalization of commodity supply chains and the emergence of highly concentrated financial groups and transnational companies linked to a network of firms operating as affiliates and suppliers, namely the global commodity chains. The NIDL could worsen gender inequality, due to the particular organizational strategies in global commodity chains that privilege power, instead of trust and market exchange, as the major form of governance and means for resource allocation. Because women represent the poorest swathe of the world’s population, they suffer the most from the growing wealth inequality and the concentration of power produced by the NIDL. Moreover, because of the traditional sexual division of labor and because of their low status in society, women are the most harshly exploited subjects in the system. The general conclusion of the paper is that in the NIDL the main means of resource allocation are not competitive markets, as often suggested by the GCV literature and mainstream economics, but are instead power relations that ultimately stem from the patriarchal culture of violence and domination.
The Local Economy Movement: An Alternative to Neoliberalism?, John Posey
The economic turmoil of the last 2 years has shown that hyper-globalized capitalism is inherently crisis prone, and that it has been unable to create sustainable prosperity. Unfortunately, the left has failed to convincingly refute Margaret Thatcher’s assertion that “there is no alternative.” There is, however, a growing social movement that aims to promote small, locally-scaled enterprises. This essay argues that the local economy movement can potentially provide a unifying principle for a new progressive agenda. However, localizers must take seriously the possible loss of gains from trade. In addition, it is important to resist a naive localism that romanticizes the local while ignoring action at other scales.
Short Changing the Value of Democracy for Economic Development in Africa, Berhanu Nega
Official donor policy towards Africa seems to be informed by the twin requirements of alleviating poverty on the one hand and ensuring respect for human rights and democratization on the other. In practice, when these interests conflict, as they usually do in Africa, donors tend to choose to continue supporting dictatorships, arguing that economic development will eventually lead to democratization. This paper argues that this faulty reasoning is a product of modernization theory that has had undue influence in western policy circles. Based on a broad survey of the literature, the paper shows that there is no theoretical or empirical basis for the claim that authoritarian regimes would provide better economic performance than democracies in general and particularly in Africa. Furthermore, available evidence suggests that the lack of democratization (defined broadly to include the substance of democracy such as government accountability and basic freedoms in addition to meaningful democratic elections) is a key constraint on economic and social development in Africa. Finally, the paper argues that even when the empirical case to establish a definite causal relationship between democratization and development cannot be ascertained, a very strong case can be made for prioritizing democratization for the long term societal transformation of the continent.
The Economic Problem of Happiness: Keynes on Happiness and Economics, Anna Maria Carabelli and Mario Aldo Cedrini
By stressing the substantial continuity of vision between John Maynard Keynes’s early unpublished essays and his more mature writings, the paper discusses Keynes’s ethics and focuses on his thoughts about happiness. In particular, we emphasize the anti-utilitarianism of Keynes’s vision and his belief that material wealth is but a precondition to enjoy the possibilities of a good life, and direct attention to problems of incommensurability raised by the multidimensional nature of happiness as considered by Keynes. We then argue that the rediscovery of Keynes’s legacy in this respect may be a precious counterweight to the most controversial aspects of today’s happiness research.
Economics, Democracy, and the Distribution of Capital Ownership, Robert Ashford
This article holds that widespread, practical access to capital acquisition is essential for sustainable widespread economic prosperity and democracy. The founders of the U.S.A. agreed that sustainable democracy required widespread ownership of land to provide a viable earning capacity sufficient to support robust participation in democratic government. The importance of widespread land ownership to individual prosperity and sustainable democracy was supported not only by the prevailing philosophical views of property, it was also apparent to the common man and woman. Compared to Europe, America offered widespread access to land ownership, higher wages, better work conditions, cheaper staples and greater individual freedom, equal opportunity, prosperity, and political participation. This conviction that widespread access to ownership is a necessary condition for widespread prosperity and sustainable democracy continued throughout most of the nineteenth century, but today public discourse reveals virtually no trace of this once universally held opinion. This article suggests that the disappearance of this conviction can be traced to an erroneous view shaped by neoclassical economics and Keynesian economics. According to this view, (1) the disappearance of the American frontier and industrialization made the goal of widespread capital ownership either impractical or of little or no economic significance and (2) by way of technological advance, sufficient earning capacity and consumer demand to promote growth and sustain democracy can be achieved, without widespread ownership, primarily through jobs and welfare. Although differing in many respects, both mainstream schools, along with Adam Smith’s classical economics, share one common but unstated economic assumption: the broader distribution of capital acquisition (in itself) has no fundamental relationship to the fuller employment of people and capital, the broader distribution of greater individual earning capacity, and growth. Contemporary thinking, shaped by these economic schools, also tacitly assumes that widespread capital ownership is not essential for the sustainable individual earning capacity needed to support robust democracy. This erroneous “ownership-neutrality assumption” (1) contradicts both the views of America’s founders and the colonial experience, and (2) provides theoretical justification for structuring capital markets and capital acquisition transactions to unfairly and dysfunctionally favor existing owners at the expense of broader ownership distribution, more widely shared prosperity, greater efficiency, ecologically friendly growth, and a vital democracy. America’s conscientious founders would be shocked by the diminished importance of the distribution of ownership in the mainstream analysis of prices, efficiency, production, growth, and democracy. Rather than enhancing democracy, they would view the “ownership-neutrality assumption” of mainstream economics as contributing to its deterioration and corruption. They would openly search for economic analysis built on an alternate assumption more consistent with their understanding of the requisite conditions for sustainable democracy. This article advances an economic analysis that suspends the ownership-neutrality assumption, replaces it with a “broader-ownership-growth assumption,” and suggests a voluntary market strategy for substantially broadening capital ownership, enhancing individual earning capacity, and providing the widespread economic prosperity needed for robust democracy.