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A simple theory of 'meso'. On the co-evolution of institutions and platform size--With an application to varieties of capitalism and 'medium-sized' countries


  • Elsner, Wolfram
  • Heinrich, Torsten


This paper deals with institutional emergence in the well-known 'evolution of cooperation' framework and focuses on its size dimension. It is argued that some 'meso' (rather than 'macro') level (to be numerically determined) is the proper level of cultural emergence, diffusion, and retention. Also Schumpeterian economists (K. Dopfer et al.) have discussed institutions as 'meso' phenomena, and Schelling, Axelrod, Arthur, Lindgren, and many others have dealt with 'critical masses' of coordinated agents, including related segregations of populations. However, the process and logic of emergent group size has rarely been explicitly explored so far. In this paper, 'meso' will be explained, in an evolutionary and game-theoretic frame and a population perspective, in terms of a cooperating group smaller than the whole population involved. Mechanisms such as memory, monitoring, reputation chains, and active partner selection will loosen the total connectivity of the deterministic 'single-shot' benchmark and thus allow for emergent 'meso'-sized arenas, while expectations to meet a cooperative partner next round remain sufficiently high. Applications of 'meso-nomia' include the deep structure of 'general trust' and the surprisingly high macro-economic and macro-social performance in 'small' and 'well-networked' countries which helps to explain persistent 'varieties of capitalism'. A strategy for empirical application of the theoretical approach and some first empirical indications of its relevance are presented.

Suggested Citation

  • Elsner, Wolfram & Heinrich, Torsten, 2009. "A simple theory of 'meso'. On the co-evolution of institutions and platform size--With an application to varieties of capitalism and 'medium-sized' countries," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 843-858, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:38:y:2009:i:5:p:843-858

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Matkovskyy, Roman, 2012. "A meso-level representation of economic systems: a theoretical approach," MPRA Paper 44093, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Jan 2013.
    2. Elsner, Wolfram & Schwardt, Henning, 2012. "Trust and Arena Size. Expectations, Trust, and Institutions Co-Evolving, and Their Critical Population and Group Sizes," MPRA Paper 40393, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Gräbner, Claudius & Kapeller, Jakop, 2015. "New Perspectives on Institutionalist Pattern Modeling: Systemism, Complexity, and Agent-Based Modeling," MPRA Paper 77334, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Gräbner, Claudius, 2015. "Formal Approaches to Socio Economic Policy Analysis - Past and Perspectives," MPRA Paper 61348, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Gräbner, Claudius, 2016. "Agent-based computational models– a formal heuristic for institutionalist pattern modelling?," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(01), pages 241-261, March.
    6. Elsner, Wolfram, 2011. "The Theory of Institutional Change Revisited: The Institutional Dichotomy, Its Dynamic, and Policy Implications in a More Formal Analysis," MPRA Paper 28760, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Elsner, Wolfram & Schwardt, Henning, 2015. "The (dis-)embedded firm: Complex structure and dynamics in inter-firm relations. Adding institutionalization as a Veblenian dimension to the Coase-Williamson approach – An emerging triangular organiza," MPRA Paper 67193, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Elsner, Wolfram, 2015. "Policy Implications of Economic Complexity and Complexity Economics," MPRA Paper 63252, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Gao, Lin, 2016. "Trust and Performance: Exploring Socio-Economic Mechanisms in the “Deep” Network Structure with Agent-Based Modeling," MPRA Paper 75214, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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