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What is the Message of 'Understanding the Process of Economic Change' for Economic Historians?


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  • Zamagni, Vera
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    This paper addresses Douglas North's latest book in the light of his intellectual lifework. North's original insistence upon the role of transaction costs did not require a departure from the neoclassical framework as clear-cut as the one required by North's latest emphasis on the role of intentionality. North's recent interest in the cognitive premises of institutional constraints to rational choice considerably expands the scope of the economic analysis of change. However, North still considers institutions supporting homo oeconomicus to be the most important progressive element in history. The paper argues that North's message goes beyond what he would be willing to transfer into the practice of economic historians. In particular, North's new conceptual framework should open the way to the acknowledgment that a plurality of progress-oriented institutions are possible, and that individualism itself could be seen as a multi-dimensional concept.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Structural Change and Economic Dynamics.

    Volume (Year): 21 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 2 (May)
    Pages: 157-163

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:streco:v:21:y:2010:i:2:p:157-163

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    Keywords: Economic change Economic historians Transaction costs Progress-oriented institutions;


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    1. Screpanti, Ernesto & Zamagni, Stefano, 1995. "An Outline of the History of Economic Thought," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198774556, September.
    2. Acemoglu, Daron & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James A., 2005. "Institutions as a Fundamental Cause of Long-Run Growth," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 6, pages 385-472 Elsevier.
    3. Paul A. David, 2007. "Path dependence: a foundational concept for historical social science," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 1(2), pages 91-114, July.
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