CLASSIC STUDY OF AMERICAN LABOR ECONOMICS "This book outlines an evolutionary and behavioral theory of value based on data drawn from court decisions. Analyzing the meaning of reasonable value as defined by the courts, Commons finds that the answer is based on a notion of reasonable conduct. Expanding this point to encompass the habits and customs of social life, he shows that court decisions are based on customs that are powerful forces shaping the economic system. John R. Commons has contributed in one way or another to practically every piece of social and labor legislation that has been enacted in the 20th century." --JACK BARBASH, Monthly Labor Review, May 1989, Vol. 112, No. 5 "[An] . . . analysis further along his chosen line than any of his predecessors. Into our knowledge of capitalism he has incorporated a great body of new materials which no one else has used adequately."-- WESLEY MITCHELL, American Economic Review, XIV (1924) 253 John R. Commons [1862-1945] was a Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin. He was the author and editor of numerous works, and established his reputation with his editorial contributions to A Documentary History of American Industrial Society (1910-1911). He was the author of The Distribution of Wealth (1893), Institutional Economics (1934) and co-author of the History of Labor in the United States (1918-1935). Commons drafted much of the nationally influential labor legislation for the state of Wisconsin that gave unions legal privileges, offered compulsory unemployment insurance to workers and established the first system of workers' compensation in the United States. Due to these path-breaking reforms, he is considered to be the spiritual father of the Social Security Act.
Commons opened Institutional Economics by declaring: "My point of view is based on my participation in collective activities, from which I here derive a theory of the part played by collective action in control of individual action." This sentence well summarizes the three key elements of this book--its theoretical intent, the importance Commons gave to his own experience in institutional reform in shaping these ideas, and the focus on the concept of the institution as a collective constraint on individual action.
This vintage book contains Ulrich Bonnell Phillips's 1918 historical treatise, “American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment, and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime”. Although Phillips displays what we would now consider to be unrepentant racism in this volume, he was an esteemed historian during his time and is able to offer an invaluable insight into life on the plantations. This volume is highly recommended for those with an interest in the American slave trade, and it would make for a useful addition to collections of related literature. Contents include: “The Early Exploitation of Guinea”, “The Maritime Slave Trade”, “The Sugar Islands”, “The Tobacco Colonies”, “The Rice Roast”, “The Northern Colonies”, “Revolution and Reaction”, “The Closing of t he African Slave Trade”, “The Introduction of Cotton and Sugar”, “The Westward Movement”, “The Domestic Slave Trade”, et cetcera. Many vintage books such as this are increasingly scarce and expensive. It is with this in mind that we are republishing this volume now in an affordable, modern edition complete with a specially commissioned new biography of the author.