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A Theory of Cultural Revivals

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Abstract

Why do some societies fail to adopt more efficient institutions? And why do such failures often coincide with cultural movements that glorify the past? We propose a model highlighting the interplay—or lack thereof—between institutional change and cultural beliefs. The main insight is that institutional change by itself will not lead to a more efficient economy unless culture evolves in tandem. This is because institutional change can be countered by changes in cultural values complementary to a more "traditional" economy. In our model, forward-looking elites, who benefit from a traditional, inefficient economy, may over-provide public goods that are complementary to the production of traditional goods. This encourages individuals to transmit cultural beliefs complementary to the provision of traditional goods. A horse race results between institutions, which evolve towards a more efficient (less traditional) economy, and cultural norms, which are pulled towards "tradition" by the elites. When culture wins the horse race, institutions respond by giving more political power to traditional elites—even if in doing so more efficient institutions are left behind. We call the interaction between these cultural and institutional dynamics a cultural revival.

Suggested Citation

  • Murat Iyigun & Jared Rubin & Avner Seror, 2019. "A Theory of Cultural Revivals," AMSE Working Papers 1931, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, France.
  • Handle: RePEc:aim:wpaimx:1931
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. A Theory of Cultural Revivals
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2019-11-28 12:44:52

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    Cited by:

    1. Chaudhary, Latika & Rubin, Jared & Iyer, Sriya & Shrivastava, Anand, 2020. "Culture and colonial legacy: Evidence from public goods games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 173(C), pages 107-129.
    2. Belmonte, Alessandro, 2020. "State Capacity, Schooling, and Fascist Education: Evidence from the Reclamation of the Pontine Marshes," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 528, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    institutions; cultural beliefs; cultural transmission; institutional change;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N70 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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