John R. Commons: Selected Essays - Vol. 1

John R. Commons: Selected Essays - Vol. 1

John R. Commons: Selected Essays - Vol. 1

John R. Commons: Selected Essays - Vol. 1

Synopsis

John R. Commons is one of the most significant figures in the development of American economics. One of the founders of the Institutional school, Commons developed theories of the evolution of capitalism and of institutional change which continue to influence modern economics. These volumes collect, for the first time, his major essays and articles.

Excerpt

John R. Commons (1862-1945) is a major figure in the history of American economics both in terms of his economic thought and in terms of his impact on practical affairs. He began as an avid follower of the Social Gospel, committed to an active program of economic and political reform. Later in his career he became the foremost authority on American labor unions. He pioneered important legislation dealing with such issues as public utility regulation, workmen’s compensation and unemployment insurance, and was actively involved in debates over monetary issues and many other policy matters. He is perhaps best known, along with Thorstein Veblen and Wesley Mitchell, as one of three co-founders of the American institutionalist tradition in economic thought, and as the primary figure within the Wisconsin school of institutionalism. Commons developed his own particular brand of institutional economics based on the idea that institutional rules emerge and change out of an ongoing process of conflict resolution. This idea he both elaborated in his writings and applied to practical institution building, with particular sensitivity to the multiplicity of factors that could affect any particular outcome. With the recent revival of interest in institutional and evolutionary approaches to economics Commons’s institutionalism has attracted renewed attention.

Despite the undoubted importance of Commons’s work, no collection of his essays that covers the entire span of his career has previously been assembled. Commons himself produced a volume entitled Social Reform and the Church (Commons 1894) that consisted of papers he had recently published or presented, and also Labor and Administration (Commons 1913) that reprinted a number of his articles originally published between 1900 and 1913 and dealing primarily with labor unions and labor problems, but no other collection of his essays has appeared. This collection repairs this deficiency. It contains a total of forty items that Commons produced over the period from 1892 to 1942, almost the whole of his publishing career, and provides a number of benefits to the student of his work. First, Commons published a vast amount (his bibliography runs to over thirty pages; see Commons 1950:377-408), making the task of locating the more significant

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