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10 posts from January 2015


Robert Prasch, RIP

From the ASE listserv...

PraschIt is very sad to report that Robert E. Prasch, professor of economics at Middlebury College, has died unexpectedly.

Bob was a heterodox economist, an institutionalist (a past president of the Association for Evolutionary Economics), a post-Keynesian, a social economist, an economic historian, and an historian of economics.  He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Colorado at Boulder in economics and history, earned a master’s in economics from University of Denver, and earned a Ph.D. in economics from University of California at Berkeley. 

In addition to his over 80 book chapters, reviews, and journal articles, he published How Markets Work: Supply, Demand and the ‘Real World’ in 2008, co-edited Thorstein Veblen and the Revival of Free Market Capitalism with Janet Knoedler and Dell Champlin in 2007, and co-edited Race, Liberalism, and Economics with his wife and Hampshire College philosopher Falguni Sheth and Middlebury colleague David Colander in 2004.  Bob was in the process of finishing two books: “A Wage of Her Own: The Rise and Fall of Progressive Era Minimum Wage Legislation for Women: 1913-1923” and “The Political Economy of Empire.”  After the financial crisis, he regularly lectured at Middlebury on “Why Financial Markets May Not Be Self-Stabilizing.”

Bob was a progressive economist, a pluralist, and an outgoing, kind and generous person.  He will be truly missed. 


Morgan & Sheehan, "The Concept of Trust and the Political Economy of John Maynard Keynes, Illustrated Using Central Bank Forward Guidance and the Democratic Dilemma in Europe"

ROSETrust is an issue to which Keynesians and post-Keynesians have paid relatively little attention. However, properly understood it is an aspect of almost all activity, including key elements of socio-economic reality. Without trust, market exchange is at the very least problematic, if not impossible. Moreover, trust is intrinsic to a variety of issues with which Keynes, and subsequent Keynesianism have been concerned. In this paper we provide a general social theory conceptualisation of trust and then set out some of the areas where this concept resonates with the work of Keynes in terms of the role of conventions. Conventions quintessentially involve trust and that trust can be unstable, can be withdrawn and can require rebuilding. We illustrate this with reference to central bank policy and the Bank of England's introduction of Forward Guidance. Exploring the problem of trust in the context of banking also highlights a challenge for the continued relevance of Keynes' work. We now live in a neoliberal world and this provides a quite different context for state intervention than was previously the case. Keynes' work is now an argument for the alternative, and as such it requires more than a technical economic argument, it must also address the problem of trust in state policy-makers. We briefly illustrate the challenge this poses with reference to Europe.

Jamie Morgan & Brendan Sheehan, "The Concept of Trust and the Political Economy of John Maynard Keynes, Illustrated Using Central Bank Forward Guidance and the Democratic Dilemma in Europe," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 113-137.


Dunlap, "The Expanding Techniques of Progress: Agricultural Biotechnology and UN-REDD+"

ROSEThis paper provides a comparative analysis of agricultural biotechnology and the United Nations program for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). Despite the existing differences between the technical manipulation of biological systems and a conservation program aimed at reducing carbon and protecting forests, the two share commonalities in ideological origin, application, and values. Presented as positive developments, both seek to address large-scale issues such as global hunger and climate change, but while receiving national and international support they remain controversial issues. Both issues are critically assessed, beginning with a brief history, followed by the application of William Dugger's four invaluation processes: contamination, subordination, emulation, and mystification. This approach unravels the subtle social power of state and market forces that seek to control genetic material and forest frontiers as new outlets for growth and investment.

Alexander Antony Dunlap, "The Expanding Techniques of Progress: Agricultural Biotechnology and UN-REDD+," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 89-112.


Call for papers: Association for Social Economics sessions at 2016 ASSA meetings



Allied Social Science Associations Annual Meeting
San Francisco, CA, January 3-5 (Sunday to Tuesday), 2016

THEME: Financialisation, Ethics, and Sustainable Development


The events in 2007-2008 have brought financialisation, that is "the increasing importance of financial markets, financial motives, financial institutions, and financial elites in the operation of the economy and its governing institutions" (Epstein 2001) to the attention of millions of people. Today some key questions are still unanswered. Will the actors, institutions, and policies of financial markets that led to the financial crisis and the related Global Crisis be tamed once and for all? Or have we entered a new age of capitalism, where financial motives and financial actors define not only the regime of accumulation and the ascendency of 'shareholder value' as a mode of business governance, but dominate everyday life, from housing and pensions to the culture of individualism and market competition? Furthermore, what is the proper function of financial goals and financial institutions in the achievement of sustainable development? What role do ethics play in shaping these goals and institutions?

For the ASE sessions at the 2016 ASSA meetings, we welcome proposals for papers on all aspects of social economics, especially those dealing with the nature and consequences of financialisation on our society and the natural environment. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

* Financialisation and inequalities: Has financialisation affected the gender, race and occupational stratification of our societies? How do group inequalities and personal and social identities influence sustainable development?

* The financialisation of the environment: What is the relation between finance and the depletion of the natural environment? Is that relationship sustainable in the long run?

* Lehman Brothers versus Lehman Sisters: What have we learned from the 2007-2008 financial crisis and related Global Crisis?

* Financialisation and corporate governance: Has anything changed in the last few decades? Can theories and practices of Corporate Social Responsibility address social, environmental and economic sustainability?

* Finance, development and global governance: How has financialisation affected developing countries and the international monetary system?

* From financialisation to de-financialisation: Could the financial sector be restructured to enhance social, environmental, and economic development? Would this require a paradigm change in economics and policymaking?

To submit a paper or a session, please go to the proposal submission area of the ASE website (under Conferences > ASSA > Proposal submissions): https://socialeconomics.org/?page=conferences&side=assa&sub=proposal_submission 

Proposals should include a 250-word abstract, all authors' names and institutional affiliations, and contact information for the corresponding author including email address. Proposals for complete sessions are also welcome. Submission deadline is 1st May 2015.

Individuals whose papers are accepted for presentation must either be or become members of the Association for Social Economics by July 1, 2015, in order for the paper to be included in the program. Membership information can be found at www.socialeconomics.org.

All papers presented at the ASSA meetings are eligible for the Warren Samuels Prize, awarded to the best paper that advances the goals of social economics and has widespread appeal. Papers can also be considered for a special issue of the Forum for Social Economics. Details of these opportunities will be sent to authors of accepted papers.

Shelkova, "Low-Wage Labor Markets and the Power of Suggestion"

ROSEThe paper argues that a non-binding minimum wage may serve as a focal point which facilities tacit collusion by low-wage employers, effectively pulling down wages of the lowest-paid workers. This can explain the puzzle as to why the minimum wage does not reduce employment, as predicted by the traditional economic theory. A simple game-theoretic argument explains when collusion emerges. The hypothesis is tested using the 1990–2002 CPS data on service occupation workers. The results suggest that during this period, on average 19.3%, and as much as 31% of service occupation workers, who earned minimum wage or less, could had been affected by collusive wage-setting.

Natalya Shelkova, "Low-Wage Labor Markets and the Power of Suggestion," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 61-88.


Cooper, McCausland & Theodossiou, "Is Unemployment and Low Income Harmful to Health? Evidence from Britain"

ROSEThis study investigates how unemployment and income influence the length of time an individual remains in good health. This is a complex relationship since unemployment or low income deteriorates health but poor health can become a barrier to obtaining higher income or gaining re-employment. Data are from the British Household Panel Survey, using two measures of physical health: an index of mobility problems and a measure of self-assessed health. The results show that unemployment, low income and poor education adversely affect the time that people remain in good health. These results have important implications for public policy, particularly in an age of austerity when social protection mechanisms are under threat. In fact, the results suggest that to improve health and reduce health inequality, more investment needs to be directed at policies that enhance labour force participation, improve education and reduce income inequality.

David Cooper, W.D. McCausland & Ioannis Theodossiou, "Is Unemployment and Low Income Harmful to Health? Evidence from Britain," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 34-60.


World Congress Summer School in Social Economics -- June 2015

FallsThe Association for Social Economics hosts a workshop for graduate students and recent Ph.D.s. held in conjunction with the World Congress of Social Economics. 

The next Summer School will be held at Brock University in St. Catherines, Canada, 13 miles (21 km) from Niagara Falls. The Summer School will begin with lunch on June 21 and end the evening of June 22, 2015. The 15th World Congress will follow, with a plenary session on the evening of June 22 and concluding on June 24, 2015.

For more details and detailed program, see the Summer School page at the ASE website. Applications will be accepted beginning around February 1.

Autiero, "Social and Personal Identities: Their Influence on Scholastic Effort"

ROSEWhen analysing the influence of identity on the motivations of scholastic effort, it is crucial to consider both social and personal identities. A child's social identity can be shaped by family background through the transmission of parental values vis-à-vis educational aspirations and achievements. As to personal identity, children may show a different locus of control over the successes and failures of their scholastic effort. In this paper, I develop an in-depth analysis of these aspects of social and personal identities and the nature of their interaction, and consider their influence on a child's effort in school through a theoretical model. Overall, the results from the model show that a (non-)pro-school social identity influenced by family background and locus of control along with their antagonistic or complementary interaction play a key role in determining children's scholastic effort by influencing their motivations.

Giuseppina Autiero, "Social and Personal Identities: Their Influence on Scholastic Effort," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 19-33.


Boulu-Reshef, "Toward a Personal Identity Argument to Combine Potentially Conflicting Social Identities"

ROSEDespite the boom in research on identity in economics, the question of how to depict personal identity in a fashion that combines potentially conflicting social identities has so far been largely ignored. This paper introduces a framework that relies on the structure of the social realm that is exogenous to the individual in order to depict investment decisions as per social identities. The structure of the environment is identified using organizational boundaries and identity production functions are used to combine social identities. The inclusion of the various social spaces that are relevant to personal identity strategies enables one to simultaneously study identification strategies and individuation strategies. It also allows the depiction of social identities that may be conflicting, due to different social commitments and/or norm valuations. This externalist conception of identity helps discuss the limitations of internalist conceptions of identity and accounts for the heterogeneity of identity strategies across individuals.

Béatrice Boulu-Reshef, "Toward a Personal Identity Argument to Combine Potentially Conflicting Social Identities," Review of Social Economy, 73/1 (2015), pp. 1-18.


Call for papers: Meritorics and Paternalism (Special Issue of Forum for Social Economics)

Forum for Social Economics – Call for Papers

Special Issue: Meritorics and Paternalism

It is one of the fundamental assumptions of neoclassical economics that all individual preferences are equally justified and valuable, be they for bibles or for knuckledusters. While this assumption is central to justify social choice theory, welfare economics and other strains of mainstream economics, it is challenged by a large number of real-world observations, be it the public support for cultural amenities or obligatory schooling.

Two concepts have been put forward in the last decades that question the value-neutrality of preferences. In 1957, Richard Musgrave introduced the concept of “merit goods” – goods which should be demanded to a stronger degree than they actually are. While Musgrave’s concept clearly had more opponents than supporters among economists, another attempt was started by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in 2009. In their book Nudge, they introduced “libertarian paternalism”, the idea that certain choices should be supported to a stronger degree than others. Although this concept received a rather friendly reception among scholars, it is yet less clear than ever to which degree the fundamentals of neoclassical economics need to be revised.

The Forum for Social Economics wants to contribute to this question and invites contributors who may approach the evaluation of preferences from an empirical and/ or from a theoretical angle.

Key Themes

This open, international special issue will explore the justification to interfere in individual decisions, both from empirical and theoretical perspectives. Utilitarian or deontological approaches towards the moral justification of interventions will be as valuable as case studies, for example from cultural or educational economics. The following questions may serve as a guideline of useful contributions for the issue:

  • How do the concepts of merit goods and of libertarian paternalism relate to each other on an epistemological and conceptual level?
  • Which paradigms of economics textbooks would have to be revised and rewritten if a concept like “merit goods” or “libertarian paternalism” should be integrated in a theory on economic policy in a consistent way?
  • Are paternalistic interventions justified in the face of market failures which are caused by the unintended consequences of complex decisions?
  • In which realms have the concepts of meritorics and paternalism entered everyday political decisions and which effect on society does that have?
  • Which empirical evidence exists that a society fares better/ worse by consciously steering consumer choices?
  • Why are there sectors like markets for machines or currencies in which paternalistic interventions are extremely unusual, while such interventions are everyday business in markets for health, education and culture?
  • Which case studies illustrate best the merits and shortcomings of paternalistic interventions by the state?


Innovative and clearly written manuscripts are subject to the Forum’s double-blind review process. The maximum length of original research articles is between 6,500 and 8,500 words.  The length for shorter papers such as review articles is no longer than 4,000 words. An abstract of 150 words should accompany the manuscript. The main document must not disclose the identity of the author.  For additional guidelines and procedures please see our Instructions to Authors at the publisher’s website.

Submissions should be directed through the on-line submission system here.

For further information on this Special Issue, please contact the Special Issue Editor, Dr. Stefan Mann, at Stefan.mann@agroscope.admin.ch 

Submission Dates:

Abstracts Due: April 01, 2015

Final Manuscripts Due: December 15, 2015

Publication of the Special Issue scheduled for the end of 2016.