Cohen on Negotiation and Political Economy

FOI Amy Cohen (Ohio State) has published a post on the Law and Political Economy blog describing her new article, “A Labor Theory of Negotiation: From Integration to Value Creation.” I was fortunate to read an early version of this article — it’s incredible! Here’s an excerpt from that post that gives you a sense of her argument:

Integration has remained a key organizing concept in negotiation theory, but its meaning has changed over time as the ways in which capitalism is organized and understood have changed. Today, the term integration is synonymous with economic value creation: a negotiation is integrative when it has the potential to leave all parties better off based on their own standards of value than whatever deal they were contemplating initially. In other words, integration means that—because of some added negotiation technique—there are more subjective units of value for negotiators to allocate than they otherwise could have accessed without deploying this technique: that is, the parties have expanded the pie before dividing it.

But integration did not initially rest on a neoclassical economic analytic. It originated with Mary Parker Follett, a late Progressive era thinker. Follett developed a socialist theory of negotiation in response to early twentieth century labor struggle (at least if we take socialism to mean the democratization of power and authority in economic life). Follett aimed to address a particular unifying question: how can labor and capital assume “collective responsibility for production”? Integration served as a hopeful answer: it meant “you can be for labour without being against capital; you can be for the institution.” From this perspective, a negotiation is integrative when—by participating in and also structuring a shared institutional context—all groups find that their desires are working to achieve the same overarching ends.

So much to think about, especially as we approach the election and consider again what kind of society we want.

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