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Under the Thumb of History? Political Institutions and the Scope for Action

Listed author(s):
  • Abhijit V. Banerjee

    (Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142)

  • Esther Duflo

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142)

This article discusses the two leading views of history and political institutions. For some scholars, institutions are mainly products of historical logic, whereas for others, accidents, leaders, and decisions have a significant impact. We argue that although there is clear evidence that history matters and has long-term effects, there are not enough data to help us distinguish between the two views. Faced with this uncertainty, what is a social scientist to do? We argue that given the possibility that policy decisions indeed make a difference, it makes sense to assume they do and to try to improve policy making.

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File URL: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-economics-080213-041110
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Article provided by Annual Reviews in its journal Annual Review of Economics.

Volume (Year): 6 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1 (08)
Pages: 951-971

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Handle: RePEc:anr:reveco:v:6:y:2014:p:951-971
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