The 2014 JSPE-Routledge Book Prize winner

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The JSPE-Routledge Book Prize

The Japan Society of Political Economy (JSPE) is pleased to announce the creation of the JSPE-Routledge Book Prize. The JSPE is an interdisciplinary association devoted to the study, development, and application of political economy to social problems. It has been the largest organization of heterodox economists in Japan since its foundation in 1959, providing important occasions for developing and debating ideas about capitalism and its dynamics. The book prize is financially supported by Routledge, which is the world's leading academic publisher in the Humanities and Social Sciences, serving scholars, instructors, and professional communities worldwide. The prize promotes the study of heterodox economics throughout the world with the aim of challenging the dominant position of orthodox neo-liberal economics among economists and policy-makers. The winner of this prize in any given year will be invited to the JSPE annual conference in Japan and will receive an award certificate and monetary grant (sponsored by Routledge).

The prize will be awarded to a living political economist based on his or her "lifetime achievement" as embodied in a distinguished book (or books) which reflects the analytical perspectives represented by the Japan Society of Political Economy – that is, which encompasses one of the following subjects: fundamental theories of political economy; historical developments in the critique of political economy and economics; historical and theoretical analysis of modern capitalism; critical analysis of current political economic problems and policy challenges.

The 2014 JSPE-Routledge Book Prize winner

The 2014 prize winner is Professor Samuel Bowles (Arthur Spiegel Research Professor and Director of the Behavioral Sciences Program at the Santa Fe Institute) based on his two books Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions and Evolution, Princeton University Press, 2004, and The New Economics of Inequality and Redistribution, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Professor Bowles started his career as a founding member of Radical Economics in the 1970s. Schooling in Capitalist America by Samuel Bowles and Harbert Gintis in 1976 was a remarkable achievement in the 1970s. It applied a Neo-Marxian approach to the economics of education. In the early 1980s, he collaborated with David Gordon and Thomas Weisskopf, and investigated the productivity slowdown in the US on the basis of microeconomic models taking class relations into account. The outcome of this collaboration was the theory of “social structures of accumulation (SSA)” as presented in Beyond the Waste Land in 1983. Professor Bowles then proposed “contested exchange theory” as the core of his future research and started his research project, “new micro foundation for the political economy of capitalism”. Applying incomplete contract theory to the labor market and the financial market, he concluded that the market cannot achieve demand-supply correspondence even at a competitive equilibrium, since an agent on the short side in the market can excise power against a trading partner. He also collaborated with Robert Boyer, and developed a macroeconomic model which integrated the microeconomic model of contested exchange and the theory of effective demand originated by Michael Kalecki. This collaborative work proved that higher wages and an effective collective bargaining system produced a higher level of employment.

Professor Bowles has been a major contributor to the development of a new paradigm of “evolutionary social science” as an alternative to the Walrasian paradigm. His work in this area culminated in the award-winning book Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions and Evolution in 2004. This is an epoch-making book which integrates the incomplete contract theory, the evolutionary game theory, behavioral economics and agent-based modeling. The topics covered include institutional change, social preferences, non-market social interaction, equilibrium unemployment, credit constraint, economic power, generalized increasing return to scale, and path dependence. A central concept in the book is that of “strong reciprocity”. This concept refers to the existence of certain group members (“altruistic punishers”) who will punish those who violate social norms, even when the act of punishing imposes a net cost on the individuals who administer the punishment. The existence of such individuals helps us to understand not only competition and conflict which economics has dealt with traditionally, but also the co-operation and reciprocal help which we usually see in the real world. The emergence of strong reciprocity is explained by the interaction between within-group selection and between-group conflict within the framework of a multi-level selection model.

The later book by Professor Bowles, The New Economics of Inequality and Redistribution, complements his Microeconomics. In this text, he proposes policies that will lead to an increase in both wages and employment in a world of global competition and increasing inequality. He emphasizes the role of “productivity-enhancing asset-based redistribution”, whereby financial assets are redistributed in such a way as to utilize potential productive resources more effectively. He also discusses the roles of reciprocity, altruism, and redistribution in modern society. This book is also highly recommended as a systematic textbook on his theory of “contested exchange”.

Professor Samuel Bowles has been a world leader in the field of political economy, developing his theories systematically on the basis of a new paradigm, and proposing new policy ideas. His intellectual achievement richly merits the award the first JSPE Routledge Book Prize.