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Cooperation, for Good or Ill

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Hilton Atlanta, Crystal A
Hosted By: Association for Social Economics
  • Chair: Rojhat Avsar, Columbia College Chicago

Network Analysis of European Wealth, Elites, and Integration, Pre- and Post-Eurozone Crisis

Nina Eichacker
University of Rhode Island


This paper evaluates the presence and evolution of economic elites in European countries before the implementation of the Eurozone, and in the decades following the creation of the Eurozone. It explores, in particular, how networks of economic elites in interlocking directorates and with toe-holds in government have stood to benefit or be hurt by integration of the EMU, by the Eurozone Crisis, and by national decisions to leave the Eurozone given the current wave of anti-European feeling in the region. It uses network analysis to link interlocking directorate research with analyses of revolving door between business interests and government to present a more developed portrait of the involvement of European economic elites in the design and implementation of policy, and how those networks stood to benefit from a strong financial and trade union of the EMU, as well as the policy recommendations of the European Comission and European Central Bank. Given perennial concerns about the economic stability of the Eurozone, in finance and other fields, this research also helps to understand how elites’ interests may have implicitly or explicitly helped generate the current waves of anti-European sentiment and success of right-wing populist parties.

This paper analyzes firms and their boards as social entities that work together to promote their interests and introduces network analysis to the social economist’s toolkit, thereby broadening the scope of economic analysis we may perform on economic policy, its creation and its consequences.

Towards More Caring Social Institutions: The Role of Economic Democracy

Robert McMaster
University of Glasgow
Andrew Cumbers
University of Glasgow
John B. Davis
Marquette University and University of Amsterdam


Julie Nelson (2016: 12) argues, “The place of care in the economy is everywhere”. Yet care is marginalised. This prompts Joan Tronto (2013, 2017) to identify a “care deficit”, where there is an inability to meet caring needs. In her argument, Tronto develops a linear phase approach to the process of care, which inter alia identifies “caring with” which she associates with the ethical qualities of trust and solidarity.

Tronto argues that neoliberalism may not be compatible with the facilitation of care, and therefore may not address, and indeed may exacerbate the care deficit. She contends that democracy is necessary in deciding the allocation of care activities.

In this paper, we explore the role of economic democracy in potentially fostering and facilitating care. In doing so, we present a broader and more holistic conceptualisation of economic democracy than the workplace focus of many approaches to the subject. We develop a fourfold framing: (i) workplace; (ii) degree of associational economic governance; (iii) distribution of economic decision-making powers across space and sector; (iv) transparency, openness and democratic engagement of broader population in macro-economic decision-making.

From here, we argue that economic democracy has the potential to encourage, and maintain the ethical properties associated with Tronto’s “caring with”. In doing so, we highlight the potency of economic democracy and care in challenging the mechanistic representation of the economy and the reductionist framing of institutional rubrics it engenders, which is damaging to the prospects of human flourishing for so many.

Social Intelligence, Impersonal Exchange, and Cooperation

Rojhat Avsar
Columbia College Chicago


Practical intelligence (from tool-making to rational calculation) has had a dominant position as the explanation for the success of our species in general and its unique capacity for culture in particular. In the light of new evidence coming from fields such as social neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, among others, there is a very strong case to be made for the role of social intelligence (skills) as our core strength as a species. Social intelligence thesis can explain our oversized brain and, in turn, our ability to engage in extensive cooperation with “strangers” through impersonal (market) exchange. In this paper, firstly, we will discuss a series of evolutionary adaptations responsible for our social brain. Secondly, we will trace our ability to engage in market exchange (which is at odds with our tribal past) to human sociality that is unique. Lastly, we will provide a substantive criticism of New Institutional and evolutionary game theoretic approaches to culture and social norms as being ill-informed about the human nature.

Smith after Samuelson: Care and Harm in a Socially Entangled World

Rob Garnett
Texas Christian University


In “The Economic Machine and the Invisible Hand” (2009), Murray Milgate argues that the mechanistic thrust of twentieth-century economics owes more to Paul Samuelson than to Adam Smith inasmuch as Samuelson’s Economics “unambiguously associated the invisible hand with the efficiency of perfectly competitive equilibrium.” The textbook model of perfect competition, though analytically a special case, conveys an ideologically potent vision of economic life as atomistic, amoral, and exclusively market-based. Each agent is assumed to exist in an ethical vacuum, interacting only with a faceless market, exerting influence upon no one in particular. Ethical responsibility vanishes as the number of buyers and sellers approaches infinity. The non-commercial roles of neighbor and citizen are supplanted by an impersonal market process in which interpersonal connections play no necessary role. In this paper, I juxtapose Samuelsonian/Walrasian invisible hand theory and its reductive notions of self-interest, responsibility, and economy to Adam Smith’s own thoroughgoing emphasis on ethics, interdependence, and the analytic unity of the moral philosophy (arguably, the social economics) articulated in his two classic texts and the ways in which positive-sum cooperation among non-kin is both facilitated and undermined by various forms of social connection:
• the senses of duty and forms of care that emerge from the awareness that one’s own actions affect the happiness or misery of others; and
• ways in which the human quest for sympathy and belonging gives rise to elitism, factionalism, ethnocentrism and associated propensities to deny or discount one’s moral connection to persons deemed lesser or other.

Dimensions of Donation Preferences: the Structure of Peer and Income Effects

Michalis Drouvelis
University of Birmingham
Benjamin M. Marx
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign


Charitable donations provide positive externalities and can potentially be increased with an understanding of donor preferences. We obtain a uniquely comprehensive characterization of donation motives using an experiment that varies treatments between and within subject. Donations are increasing in peers' donations, past subjects’ donations, and bonus income. These findings of peer and income effects do not extend to earned income, anonymous donations, or peers' donations of bonus income. A model of an uncertain social norm for giving can explain the patterns here and in several strands of past research. Estimation of the model reveals substantial heterogeneity in subjects' adherence to the norm and perceptions of its form. Correlations between these dimensions of preferences are such that charities with perfect information could increase net revenue using targeted give-aways to certain donors. A simpler fundraising strategy using only the social dimension of donor preferences increases donations by 30 percent.
JEL Classifications
  • Z1 - Cultural Economics; Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology