The work ethic was invented by Puritan ministers in the 17th century. At the turn of the 20th century, sociologist Max Weber argued that it trapped workers in an “iron cage” of meaningless drudgery for the sake of interminable wealth accumulation. In the 21st century, anarchist anthropologist David Graeber has condemned it for consigning workers to “bullshit jobs.” They are only half right.
This talk focuses on the intellectual sources of the transformation of the modern state. It suggests that modernist social science informed the main narratives of the crisis of the administrative and welfare state in the 1970s and inspired the waves of subsequent public sector reform. Mark Bevir is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for British Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
Did the English patent system help spark the Industrial Revolution? Most scholars addressing this question have focused on whether patents improved the economic incentive to invent. In contrast, Professor Gary Cox focuses on whether patents improved access to useful knowledge—via the requirement (instituted in 1734) that patentees provide technical specifications for their inventions.
Professor Larry Bartels (Vanderbilt) examines the relationship between public opinion and social spending in thirty affluent democracies over the past three decades. He finds that governments’ responsiveness to citizens’ preferences was highly skewed in favor of affluent citizens, who were generally less supportive of the welfare state than poor citizens were. This bias in responsiveness reduced the equilibrium level of social spending in most countries by 10-15%.
Guilds ruled many crafts and trades from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution, and have always attracted debate and controversy. They were sometimes viewed as efficient institutions that guaranteed quality and skills. But they also excluded competitors, manipulated markets, and blocked innovations. Did the benefits of guilds outweigh their costs? Professor Sheilagh Ogilvie of Cambridge University discusses her new book, The European Guilds: An Economic Analysis.
Emotions trigger many human actions, notably in conflictual situations. In this talk, Professor Jon Elster (Columbia) will first consider models of emotional choice versus rational choice, and then consider selected episodes from 18th century French and American political history to argue for the crucial importance of emotions of anger fear, and enthusiasm.
In this public lecture, Professor Herbert Gintis explores the competing roles of consequentialist and moral reasoning in democratic choice. Herbert Gintis is an American economist, behavioral scientist, and educator known for his theoretical contributions to sociobiology, especially altruism, cooperation, epistemic game theory, gene-culture coevolution, efficiency wages, strong reciprocity, and human capital theory.
In this public lecture, Professor Barry Weingast explores Adam Smith’s theory of organised religion and the breakdown of the medieval church’s monopoly in the reformation. Barry Weingast is the Ward C. Krebs Family Professor of political science at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.