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The Roadblock of Culturalist Economics: Economic Change á la Douglass North

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  • Khalil, Elias

Abstract

In his 2005 book, Understanding the Process of Economic Change, North offers a rough account of economic change that can be called “culturalist economics.” In his account, he attributes the change of well being of individuals to, besides technology and demographics, cultural heritage or cultural beliefs. Using this basis, he then attributes "the mystery of the unique evolution of western Europe" to a causative view that combines "Christian dogma" and English "individualism." This combinatory belief assures property rights, and hence explains the success of Western Europe and the US and the failure of Islam and Latin America in terms of their respective economic development. But North’s culturalist economics faces a roadblock: it does not explain the origin of beliefs, and it neglects the role of rational choice in manufacturing beliefs. Specifically, it ignores the roles of agency, revolutionary change, and the dynamics of empire.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 1045.

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Date of creation: 05 Dec 2006
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:1045

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Keywords: cultural economics vs. culturalist economics; reification of culture; Christian dogma; individualism; mystery of rise of Europe; Islam;

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  1. Francois, P. & Zabojnik, J., 2003. "Trust, Social Capital and Economic Development," Discussion Paper, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research 2003-116, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  2. Bisin, Alberto & Verdier, Thierry, 2001. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and the Dynamics of Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 298-319, April.
  3. Kuran, Timur, 2003. "The Islamic Commercial Crisis: Institutional Roots of Economic Underdevelopment in the Middle East," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(02), pages 414-446, June.
  4. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
  5. Herbert Gintis, 2001. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Altruism: Gene-Culture Coevolution, and the Internalization of Norms," Working Papers, Santa Fe Institute 01-10-058, Santa Fe Institute.
  6. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
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