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The market does not spontaneously generate democratic or participatory economic institutions. This book asks whether a modern, efficient economy can be rendered democratically accountable and, if so, what strategic changes might be required to regulate the market-mediated interaction of economic agents. The contributors bring contemporary microeconomic theory to bear on a range of related issues, including the relationship between democratic firms and efficiency in market economies; incentives and the relative merits of various forms of internal democratic decision-making; and the effects of democratically accountable firms on innovation, saving, investment, and on the informational and disciplinary aspects of markets. Various approaches to the study of economic interaction (game theory, transactions' cost analysis, social choice theory, rent-seeking, etc.) are considered in an attempt to understand the relationship between power and efficiency in market economies.
If it were not for the hope that a scientific study of men's social actions may lead, not necessarily directly or immediately, but at some time and in some way, to practical results in social improvement, not a few students of these actions would regard the time devoted to their study as time misspent.
(A. C. Pigou, The Economics of Welfare, 1932)
The contributions to this volume encompass a wide range of subjects pertaining to the analysis, understanding and evaluation of economic systems in regard to their structural as well as to their behavioral and evolutionary aspects: capitalism, socialism, institutions, rules, ownership, power, participation, agency, incentives, conflict, cooperation, productivity, and investment behavior. But it seems to me that the underlying common denominator is somehow related to the quest for an economic régime that is able to bring about an acceptable trade-off between efficiency and participation (democracy) in modern society. It may be held that this quest has seemingly been removed from the agenda as a consequence of the decline and fall of socialism in the world. But such a conclusion would certainly be premature, and for several reasons. In the first place, it is debatable whether the socioeconomic system in Eastern Europe had anything more in common with traditional images of socialism than collective ownership of the means of production and planning.
Wadensjö's paper is an important contribution to our understanding of how the notions of the Stockholm School arose with special regard to the interplay between economic theory and politics. His findings seem to reinforce the conclusions previously reached by Karl-Gustav Landgren in his book on the rise of the new economics in Sweden from 1927 to 1939 published in 1960, namely, that the chief architect of the new economic policy and, in fact, the most consistent advocate of the new theoretical insights was Ernst Wigforss; and that the only academic economist who at an early stage succeeded in liberating himself from the preconceptions of the old theory was Bertil Ohlin. Ohlin was actually the only member of the Stockholm economists who came close to a theory of output as a whole. One point of considerable interest in Wadensjö's paper is his discovery that Ohlin, under pressure from Hammarskjöld and others, published a somewhat emasculated version of his theory in his supplement to the report from the Committee on Unemployment. Wadensjö's concluding reflections on the considerable dependence of the Stockholm economists upon governmental assignment (e.g., the Committee on Unemployment) for developing their theoretical work raises interesting questions that are worthy of further consideration.
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