Does Social Cooperation Affect Macroeconomic Performance?

The second seminar will be held twice, please choose whichever is most convenient:


January 15th 2019, 2.00- 5.30pm

Blavatnik School of Government
Walton St, Oxford, OX2 6GG

 January 16th 2019, 9.30am-12.30pm followed by lunch

National Institute for Economic and Social Research
2 Dean Trench Street, Westminster
London, SW1P 3HE

Discussion theme: Accounting for Macroeconomic Failure

The workshop is concerned with new approaches to measuring value, based on the social foundations of economic activities. These approaches go well beyond GDP as an indicator of economic performance, by taking into account not merely environmental externalities, but also social externalities. The social externalities cannot be addressed through accounting methods based on the market value of goods and services, since these measures presuppose an individualistic understanding of social welfare. In this conventional understanding, goods and services generate utility for individuals independently of their social contexts and social welfare is simply the sum of individual utilities. By contrast, the workshop takes into account approaches to measuring value that depend on people’s social interactions.

These approaches call for us to distinguish not just between productive and redistributive activities, but also to investigate goals of economic activities that are not merely individualistic, but include prosocial and positionally competitive goals. Competitive goals are associated with positional competition; individualistic goals are ones that satisfy individual wants without affecting other people’s welfare (which is the standard case in conventional analysis); and prosocial goals are ones associated with affiliative and caring relationships, in which people gain altruistic benefits from promoting each other’s welfare. These three types of economic activities are associated with three types of goods and services: (i) positional commodities, (ii) individualistic want-satisfying commodities and (iii) prosocial services.

Prosocial services are associated with positive consumption externalities, since one person’s service promotes other people’s welfare. Individualistic want-satisfying commodities have no consumption externalities. Positional commodities have negative consumption externalities, since people’s welfare depends on their consumption relative to one another. Dividing goods and services into these three categories permits a new approach to an externality-enhanced assessment of productivity and GDP.

This approach also can lead to a reappraisal of public policies and technological advance. The workshop aims to provide an impetus to find measurable indicators of positional, individualistic and prosocial activities and to investigate the degree to which public policies and technological advances fall on each. The workshop will explore what sorts of policies are associated with a rise in status-seeking activities relative to prosocial activities and investigate the implications for social fragmentation. Thereby workshop is intended to shed new light on the relationships between technological advance, productivity, social fragmentation and social welfare.

Cooperation Research Hub

08 August 2018