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


  • Zamagni, Vera


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Zamagni, Vera, 2010. "What is the Message of 'Understanding the Process of Economic Change' for Economic Historians?," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 157-163, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:streco:v:21:y:2010:i:2:p:157-163

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Screpanti, Ernesto & Zamagni, Stefano, 2005. "An Outline of the History of Economic Thought," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 2, number 9780199279142, June.
    3. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fernando Guirao & Frances M. B. Lynch, 2011. "The implicit theory of historical change in the work of Alan S. Milward," Economics Working Papers 1290, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    2. Frances M. B. Lynch & Fernando Guirao, 2011. "The Implicit Theory of Historical Change in the work of Alan S. Milward," Working Papers 586, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    3. Oana - Ramona SOCOLIUC, 2013. "The Open Society, Institutions and Economic Performance," EuroEconomica, Danubius University of Galati, issue 2(32), pages 151-157, September.


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