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This chapter gives an account of how the perspectives of a political philosopher and an economic sociologist are brought to bear on how the contemporary extremes of inequality are generated in society. It explains why Marx remains a major focus of interest. It then sets the book within the contemporary debates and approaches to inequality, both national and global. It argues that in important ways the latter are a regression from Marx, whereas this book represents an attempt to go beyond Marx, by exploring deeper and broader analysis of the processes generating inequalities to both market and public goods.
This chapter is a sequel to Chapter Two, providing an analysis of how profits are generated within commercial enterprises producing for the market. It argues both against both Marx’s one-sided productionist view and contemporary one-sided market-based views. It presents an alternative integrative approach, proposing that profits require asymmetries of economic power over both workers and consumers.
This chapter develops the theoretical analysis by providing an historical account of the development of wage labour, in a long duration account from the beginning of the 19th century through to mid-20th century in the United Kingdom. It shows how new forms of coercive labour developed with industrial capitalism through employment and welfare law. It argues that state power, through law and fiscal regimes, conditions the exchange between labour and capital. As such, it critiques the abstraction of the economy as a separate sphere and discipline, proposing a co-evolutionary account of economic organisation, law and fiscal regimes.
As a complement to the previous chapter, based on current scholarship and debates, this chapter demonstrates how deeply entwined slavery was with the development of industrial capitalism. Moreover, thriving slave economies were succeeded by new forms of bonded and unfree labour, rather than free wage labour, through to the middle of the 20th century. It argues that there is no purely economic incompatibility between capitalism and slavery, including in the present day. Only political struggles and new moralities replaced old forms of economic and power inequalities with the persistent inequalities of the present day. The chapter analyses the epistemological suppression of slavery and coerced labour within classical and modern economic conceptions of the abstract market economy.
This chapter argues for the need to build an economic sociology/political economy of demand that goes from micro-individual through to macro-structural features. It develops an ‘instituted economic process’ approach to the study of demand and innovation to account for processes of institutionalisation and deinstitutionalisation. Within this framework, the concept of a ‘production—distribution—retail—consumption’ configuration is seen as shaping innovation. The empirical investigations of this chapter involve analysis of how retail markets link demand with supply, and how that link is a structured one: the interface facing both ways. The chapter explores three empirical cases. The first involves the near disappearance of wholesale markets for fresh fruit and vegetables to retail markets, and the particular questions raised in terms of range and quality of products that flow through them. The second deals with an equally significant reconfiguration of the retail—distribution—production configuration reflected in the emergence of supermarket own-label products. The third raises the question of how the organisation of retail markets, and their transformation, alters the way demand is instituted between end consumers and retailers.
A challenge to the new economic sociology is that central economic processes should become the focus of theoretical and empirical sociological analysis. This chapter argues that competition processes are co-instituted with markets, and that market processes are in turn co-instituted with industrial divisions of labour. It begins with an examination of some of the few empirically based studies of competition, suggesting that they often are developed for overtly normative or prescriptive purposes. The chapter then returns to analyse some of the early Weberian conceptions of competition, upon which to build an economic sociology of competitive processes. It provides an exemplification of the analytical framework through a schematic analysis of changing forms of competition in the historical development of UK food supermarkets. The conclusion drawn from this analysis is that competitive processes are a result of processes of transformation wider than intra-market dynamics.
This book arose out of a friendship between a political philosopher and an
economic sociologist, and their recognition of an urgent political need to
address the extreme inequalities of wealth and power in contemporary
The book provides a new analysis of what generates inequalities in rights to income, property and public goods in contemporary societies. It claims to move beyond Marx, both in its analysis of inequality and exploitation, and in its concept of just distribution. In order to do so, it critiques Marx’s foundational Labour Theory of Value and its closed-circuit conception of the economy. It points to the major historical transformations that create educational and knowledge inequalities, inequalities in rights to public goods that combine with those to private wealth. In two historical chapters, it argues that industrial capitalism introduced new forms of coerced labour in the metropolis alongside a huge expansion of slavery and indentured labour in the New World, with forms of bonded labour lasting well into the twentieth century. Only political struggles, rather than any economic logic of capitalism, achieved less punitive forms of employment. It is argued that these were only steps along a long road to challenge asymmetries of economic power and to realise just distribution of the wealth created in society.
This chapter presents the central argument of the book, jointly written by Mark Harvey and Norman Geras. It develops a systematic critique of Marx’s foundational theory of class division and inequality, the Labour Theory of Value. It presents an alternative, neo-Polanyian, framework for analysing inequalities and how they are generated at different times in different societies. It argues for a broader concept of just distribution to include both market and public goods.
This book explores the new applications of established theories or adapts theoretical approaches in order to illuminate behaviour in the field of food. It focuses on social processes at the downstream end of the food chain, processes of distribution and consumption. The book reviews the existing disciplinary approaches to understanding judgements about food taste. It suggests that the quality 'halal' is the result of a social and economic consensus between the different generations and cultures of migrant Muslims as distinct from the non-Muslim majority. Food quality is to be viewed in terms of emergent cognitive paradigms sustained within food product networks that encompass a wide range of social actors with a wide variety of intermediaries, professional and governmental. The creation of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) occurred at a juncture when perceptions of policy failure were acknowledged at United Kingdom and European Union governmental levels. The book presents a case study of retailer-led food governance in the UK to examine how different 'quality logics' actually collide in the competitive world of food consumption and production. It argues that concerns around food safety were provoked by the emergence of a new food aesthetic based on 'relationalism' and 'embeddedness'. The book also argues that the study of the arguments and discourses deployed to criticise or otherwise qualify consumption is important to the political morality of consumption.