This workshop was originally taught at the Summer Academy for Pluralist Economics 2021
Instructor: Jerome Warren
|1 week block course
Participants should be able to distinguish the strictly non-cooperative (methodological individualist) foundations of traditional neoclassical economics as being couched in self-interested individuals, as well as having basic knowledge of an alternative set of theories based on the primacy cooperation and social norms and extending the breadth of economic analysis beyond exchange. Moreover, participants should be able to apply the latter theories to real-world situations. They should be able to explain behaviors that deviate significantly from the predictions of neoclassical theory, e.g., with reference to examples of successful long-term cooperation and management of common pool resources (CPRs).
Cooperatives arose as "double movements", in the language of Karl Polanyi, to fend off the immiseration and social squalor inflicted upon the growing system of liberal markets that capitalism required to flourish. Cooperatives operate and began with certain core values: trust, comradery, mutual aid, democracy, open-ness, inclusion and non-discrimination and a desire to reduce or limit the role of capital returns on organizational thinking and decision-making. Each of these values strictly challenges the premises of contemporary mainstream (read: neoclassical and offshoots) economic theory (which i refer to as competitive econ). Competitive econ uses theoretical problems like the Prisoner's Dilemma as foundational tools for describing human behavior and its ideas on Pareto optimality, welfare effects and market equilibrium are based on very strong normative assumptions of non-cooperation. These facts, and the ensuing interest in alternative economic structures, like cooperatives, renews the need for a new, moral economics. Cooperative econ takes as its basis notions advanced in interdisciplinary circles, from heterodox econ to political economy, economic sociology, anthropology and psychology and takes as given that norms form a central role in forming preferences. Whereas competitive econ assumes preferences are exogenously given and fails to open up the "black box" of preference formation, cooperative econ places a central emphasis on the process, context and path-dependence of preferences, and considers at least two distinct generators of preferences: morality (otherwise referred to as norm-based rationality) and cost-benefit analysis (akin to the neoclassical concept of utility). Within this workshop, we will learn that each of these generators is important and that to ignore one in favor of the other results in a handicapped and partial perspective on human behavior, including economic behavior. We will attempt to develop the outlines of a theory of cooperative economics in the course of the workshop, and be continually looking at various aspects of the practice of such issues in day-to-day life. Issues discussed will include the care economy, social economy, cooperative principles, issues resulting from "real competition", the limits of behavioral economy and other issues participants bring into the course.
As the course is necessarily very compact, I have tried to select a compact, dense set of readings that are typically short and to-the-point. Longer readings are included but typically not “required reading”. There are many texts here that may interest some of you more than others, and we can focus on certain texts more than others, as need be.
Workshop - Mixture of new content as lecture, discussion of lecture and prepared reading. Interaction and working tasks during the session. Students are encouraged to write short reflections throughout the workshop and will develop a final presentation for the whole summer academy.
This Module can either be accomplished in a compulsory or elective module, depending on the degree programme. In every degree programme it might be suited for elective or transdisciplinary modules. In degree programmes in economics or with parts in economics, it might be suited for advanced courses, too.
No formal educational requirements are necessary to participate, but participants with a background in social science (sociology, economics, anthropology, political science) and related fields will find the material easier to understand. Some mathematical models will be discussed, but knowledge of formal mathematics is not necessary to understand the arguments. Knowledge of English is mandatory.
One Essay is required of no more than 2,500 words. The essay should connect with one of the required or suggested readings and develop and argument applying the theories discussed in the workshop.
Jerome Warren, B.A., B.Sc., M.A.,
Doctoral Candidate, University of Cologne,
Department of Social Policy and Applied Qualitative Research
Seminar for Cooperative Studies