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Historical school and institutionalism

  • Staffan Hultén
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    Purpose – The paper aims to study the relevance of the German historical school and American Institutionalism for contemporary research in social sciences. The subject scope of the paper is to trace how concepts, ideas, and frameworks trickle from the historical school into later research programs. Design/methodology/approach – The methodology of the paper is a textual analysis of articles and books that either relates the relationship between the historical school and the institutionalism or make explicit or implicit references to the most important concepts and methodologies in these schools. Findings – The paper has two main findings. The first is that Commons was heavily influenced by Weber's ideal-types when he wrote his most important book Institutional Economics. The second is that concepts and methodologies used by the historical school and American institutionalism are used in nearly all areas of the social sciences. But the researchers seldom make explicit references to these schools. Research limitations/implications – A limitation of the present paper is that it draws too a very limited extent directly on the publications of the German historical school. Future research could try and reconstruct how the American instutionalists came to the conclusions they did on the historical school. It is possible that differences in political opinions and competition between two schools with partly similar messages prompted writers like Veblen and Commons to exaggerate differences of opinion. Originality/value – One important contribution of the paper is the discussion of the influences the historical school had on leading institutionalists. Another important contribution is the exploration of present and future research projects that could benefit from revisiting the theories and methodologies of the historical school and institutionalism. By making more explicit the references to these schools, new insights can be gained on how to develop research methodologies and understanding the limits and potentials of pursuing a research approach.

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    Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Journal of Economic Studies.

    Volume (Year): 32 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 2 (May)
    Pages: 169-178

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    Handle: RePEc:eme:jespps:v:32:y:2005:i:2:p:169-178
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