Monday, May 15, 2006

Bowles and Schor Win Leontief Prize

The 2006 prizes honor two economists whose work has opened new paths for economic theory and policy. In awarding the Leontief Prize to Dr. Bowles, GDAE cited his groundbreaking work as an innovator in microeconomics over the last 40 years. His work on the structure of labor and capital markets and the organization of work has led to the theory of “contested exchange,” demonstrating how markets naturally create persistent inequalities of wealth and power. His current research focuses on the evolution of institutions, behavior, and preferences, and on the causes and consequences of inequality. Dr. Bowles combines empirical and theoretical work in economics and many related disciplines, along with sophisticated mathematical tools, to address questions of broad social and political importance. Now nominally retired from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he divides his time between U-Mass, the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico (where he heads the Behavioral Sciences Program), and the University of Siena in Italy.

Dr. Juliet Schor has become well known for her work on trends in labor and leisure, consumption, the economics of families, and economic justice. Her first well-known book, The Overworked American, described the time pressures, competition, and consumerism of late 20th-century America. This was followed by The Overspent American, and most recently by Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture. Her current research interests include the commercialization of childhood, and the environmental sustainability of American lifestyles. Dr. Schor directed the Women Studies Program at Harvard University and taught in the Harvard economics department before becoming a Professor of Sociology at Boston College.

Bowles was my professor last semester (actually, I have an incomplete in his class due to the whole shoulder thing, so I guess technically he is still my professor). Truly brilliant man, and he picks a mean banjo.

The compendium of his work on microeconomics--theoretical and pedagogical--is captured in his "Post-Walrasian" graduate textbook,
Microeconomics : Behavior, Institutions, and Evolution
. You can read my review of it here.

Incidentally, many of the microeconomic theoretical innovations in Bowles' work--social preferences, co-evolution of institutions and preferences, and power and contested exchange, for example--are consistent with, if not inspired by, the expository works of John Kenneth Galbraith that Clive Crooks derides in the National Journal: Galbraith's The Affluent Society, The New Industrial State, and The Anatomy of Power.


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