Oliver Williamson and American liberalism

Lecturing recently in Modern Political Ideologies I observed that classical liberalism are not entirely incompatible, classical liberals were concerned about workers’ subordination in the production process and about the rise of corporate capitalism. Currently rereading Oliver Williamson’s The Economic Institutions of Capitalism, doubly appropriate because of his recent Nobel Prize in economics. An interesting milestone in the recasting of American liberalism. Much of it is a critique first of the populist anti-trust tradition, very influential in the United States, which tended to see any deviation from a pure neoclassical market market as evidence of economic inefficiency and secondly of the ‘labour process’ school that attributed the subordination of workers within the capitalist production process to the requirements of capitalist profitability. This tradition drew on Marx’s analysis of the capitalist labour process, most notably as rediscovered by Harry Braverman, but in the US it also drew on a radicalised liberalism that emerged in the late 1960s as centrist liberals such as Robert Dahl and Charles Lindblom interpreted capitalist enterprises as systems of power and as the ‘blue-collar blues’ briefly held the attention of social observers. Williamson following on from Alchian & Demsetz instead saw managerial authority as a necessary outcome of opportunism. All this will be discussed in the article I currently writing on capitalism and liberalism in the US.

One thought on “Oliver Williamson and American liberalism

  1. alchian says:

    [...] Information Costs, and Economic Organization, American Economic Review, December, 1972. …Oliver Williamson and American liberalism Geoff RobinsonWilliamson following on from Alchian & Demsetz instead saw managerial authority as a necessary [...]

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