Skip to content

Yochai Benkler, Power and Productivity: Institutions, Ideology, and Technology in Political Economy (Dec. 14, 2019).

Abstract: Market democracies struggle with economic insecurity and growing inequality, presenting new threats to democracy. The revival of “political economy” offers a frame for understanding the relationship between productivity and justice in market societies. It reintegrates power and the social and material context — institutions, ideology, and technology — into our analysis of social relations of production, or how we make and distribute what we need and want to have. Organizations and individuals, alone and in networks, struggle over how much of a society’s production happens in a market sphere, how much happens in nonmarket relations, and how embedded those aspects that do occur in markets are in social relations of mutual obligation and solidarism. These struggles involve efforts to shape institutions, ideology, and technology in ways that trade off productivity and power, both in the short and long term. The outcome of this struggle shapes the highly divergent paths that diverse market societies take, from oligarchic to egalitarian, and their stability as pluralistic democracies.