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Guilds, Efficiency, and Social Capital: Evidence from German Proto-Industry


  • Sheilagh Ogilvie


This paper analyzes an early modern German economy to test alternative theories about guilds. It finds little evidence to support recent hypotheses arguing that guilds corrected market failures relating to product quality, training, and innovation. But it finds that guilds were social networks that generated a social capital of shared norms, common information, mutual sanctions, and collective political action. Guilds’ social capital affected rival producers, suppliers, employees, consumers, the government, and the wider economy. Economic analyses of collective action, it is argued, can explain why guilds were so widespread while not necessarily being efficient.

Suggested Citation

  • Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2002. "Guilds, Efficiency, and Social Capital: Evidence from German Proto-Industry," CESifo Working Paper Series 820, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_820

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. R. Hirschowitz, 1989. "The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 57(4), pages 266-272, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Moshe Justman & Karine Beek, 2015. "Market forces shaping human capital in eighteenth-century London," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(4), pages 1177-1202, November.
    2. Boerner, Lars, 2016. "Medieval market making brokerage regulations in Central Western Europe, ca. 1250-1700," Economic History Working Papers 66834, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    3. Klaus Desmet & Stephen Parente, 2014. "Resistance to Technology Adoption: The Rise and Decline of Guilds," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(3), pages 437-458, July.
    4. McCloskey, Deirdre N., 2013. "Tunzelmann, Schumpeter, and the Hockey Stick," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(10), pages 1706-1715.
    5. John Meadowcroft & Mark Pennington, 2008. "Bonding and bridging: Social capital and the communitarian critique of liberal markets," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 21(2), pages 119-133, September.
    6. Hayley H. Chouinard & Gregmar I. Galinato & Philip R. Wandschneider, 2016. "Making Friends To Influence Others: Entry And Contribution Decisions That Affect Social Capital In An Association," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(2), pages 819-834, April.
    7. Erik Lindberg, 2009. "Club goods and inefficient institutions: why Danzig and Lübeck failed in the early modern period," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 62(3), pages 604-628, August.
    8. Timothy W. Guinnane & Sheilagh C. Ogilvie, 2013. "A Two-Tiered Demographic System: "Insiders" and "Outsiders" in Three Swabian Communities, 1558-1914," Working Papers 1021, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    9. Leunig, Tim & Minns, Chris & Wallis, Patrick, 2011. "Networks in the Premodern Economy: The Market for London Apprenticeships, 1600–1749," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(02), pages 413-443, June.
    10. Minns, Chris & Wallis, Patrick, 2009. "Rules and reality: quantifying the practice of apprenticeship in early modern Europe," Economic History Working Papers 27865, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    11. Minns, Chris & Wallis, Patrick, 2013. "The price of human capital in a pre-industrial economy: Premiums and apprenticeship contracts in 18th century England," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 335-350.
    12. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Cantoni & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2011. "The Consequences of Radical Reform: The French Revolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3286-3307, December.
    13. Chari, Murali D.R. & Banalieva, Elitsa R., 2015. "How do pro-market reforms impact firm profitability? The case of India under reform," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 357-367.
    14. Federico Etro & Elena Stepanova, 2016. "Entry of painters in the Amsterdam market of the Golden Age," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 317-348, May.
    15. Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2014. "The Economics of Guilds," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 169-192, Fall.
    16. Börner, Lars & Quint, Daniel, 2010. "Medieval matching markets," Discussion Papers 2010/31, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    17. Natalia Aivazova, 2013. "Role of Apprenticeships in Combating Youth Unemployment in Europe and the United States," Policy Briefs PB13-20, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    18. Timothy Guinnane & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2008. "Institutions and Demographic Responses to Shocks: Württemberg, 1634-1870," Working Papers 962, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    19. Haggerty, John & Haggerty, Sheryllynne, 2011. "The life cycle of a metropolitan business network: Liverpool 1750-1810," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 189-206, April.
    20. Julie Marfany, 2010. "Is it still helpful to talk about proto-industrialization? Some suggestions from a Catalan case study," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(4), pages 942-973, November.
    21. Frey, Carl Benedikt & Osborne, Michael A., 2017. "The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 254-280.
    22. Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2007. "'Whatever Is, Is Right'?, Economic Institutions in Pre-Industrial Europe (Tawney Lecture 2006)," CESifo Working Paper Series 2066, CESifo Group Munich.
    23. Garry Bruton & David Ahlstrom & Steven Si, 2015. "Entrepreneurship, poverty, and Asia: Moving beyond subsistence entrepreneurship," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 1-22, March.
    24. Minns, Chris & Wallis, Patrick, 2011. "Why did (pre‐industrial) firms train?: premiums and apprenticeship contracts in 18th century England," Economic History Working Papers 41348, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    25. Ogilvie, Sheilagh & Carus, A.W., 2014. "Institutions and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 8, pages 403-513 Elsevier.

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    guilds; social capital; social networks;


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