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Love's labor's lost? the disutility of work and work avoidance in the economic analysis of labor supply

David Spencer

Review of Social Economy, 2003, vol. 61, issue 2, 235-250

Abstract: This paper explores the origins and evolution of the concept of the disutility of work. The original formulation of this concept developed by Stanley Jevons and by Alfred Marshall recognizes the variability of work motives stressing the effects of both the quantity and quality of work on labor supply. Subsequent writers, notably Lionel Robbins, and later Gary Becker, focus on the opportunity cost of work time, to the neglect of the content of work. These writers lose sight of the influence of the nature of work on the supply of labor. Contemporary research on the economics of labor supply, while accepting the presence of agency problems surrounding the enforcement of the labor contract, continues to consign the determinants of work motives to a black box. The new emphasis on the problem of “shirking” by workers, in particular, offers an unbalanced treatment of the causes and consequences of work resistance.

Keywords: labor supply; effort; shirking; work motivation; work avoidance (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2003
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DOI: 10.1080/0034676032000098237

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