History Lessons: The Birth of Impersonal Exchange: The Community Responsibility System and Impartial Justice
This paper describes the premodern European institution that supported impersonal exchange, in which a merchant's decision to exchange is independent either of expectations of future exchange with the same partner or of knowledge of that partner's past conduct or the ability to report misconduct to future trading partners. Economists know surprisingly little about how institutions evolved to support impersonal exchange. The standard story asserts that in the early stages of market development, exchange tends to be personal and is supported by reputation; then, after an economy becomes sufficiently large, society establishes centralized and impartial courts that, by the threat of coercively imposed sanctions, enable widespread impersonal exchange. But during the late medieval period, there was no centralized legal system capable of effectively supporting impersonal exchange among merchants from different localities; and, although local courts existed throughout Europe, they were not impartial dispensers of justice but were attentive to local interests and were controlled by the local elite. This paper describes how a particular institution, the "community responsibility system," nevertheless enabled European merchants to commit to keep their contractual obligations in impersonal exchange from the late medieval to the modern period.
Volume (Year): 20 (2006)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
|Contact details of provider:|| Web page: https://www.aeaweb.org/jep/|
More information through EDIRC
|Order Information:||Web: https://www.aeaweb.org/subscribe.html|
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-548, June.
- Green, Edward J & Porter, Robert H, 1984.
"Noncooperative Collusion under Imperfect Price Information,"
Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 87-100, January.
- Green, Edward J. & Porter, Robert H., 1982. "Noncooperative Collusion Under Imperfect Price Information," Working Papers 367, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Edward J Green & Robert H Porter, 1997. "Noncooperative Collusion Under Imperfect Price Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1147, David K. Levine.
- Greif, Avner, 1989. "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 857-882, December.
- Avner Greif, 2006. "Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origins and Implications of Western Corporations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 308-312, May.
- Volckart, Oliver, 2004. "The economics of feuding in late medieval Germany," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 282-299, July.
- Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1995. "Group lending, repayment incentives and social collateral," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-18, February.
- Besley, T. & Coate, S., 1991. "Group Lending, Repayment Incentives And Social Collateral," Papers 152, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
- Bouman, F. J. A., 1995. "Rotating and accumulating savings and credit associations: A development perspective," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 371-384, March.
- Avner Greif, 2002. "Institutions and Impersonal Exchange: From Communal to Individual Responsibility," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 158(1), pages 168-168, March.
- A. Meltzer & Peter Ordeshook & Thomas Romer, 1982. "Introduction," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 39(1), pages 1-3, January.
- Guinnane, Timothy W., 2001. "Cooperatives As Information Machines: German Rural Credit Cooperatives, 1883 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(02), pages 366-389, June.
- Timothy W. Guinnane, 1997. "Cooperatives as Information Machines: German Rural Credit Cooperatives, 1883-1914," Discussion Papers 97-20, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
- Greif, Avner & Milgrom, Paul & Weingast, Barry R, 1994. "Coordination, Commitment, and Enforcement: The Case of the Merchant Guild," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 745-776, August.
- Greif, Avner, 2000. "The fundamental problem of exchange: A research agenda in Historical Institutional Analysis," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(03), pages 251-284, December.
- Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-950, October. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:20:y:2006:i:2:p:221-236. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros)or (Michael P. Albert)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.