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Entrepreneurs, formalisation of social ties and trustbuilding in Europe (14th-20th centuries)

Author

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  • Guido Alfani
  • Vincent Gourdon

Abstract

Recent developments in applications of network analysis to history are leading to a new way of thinking about how social and economic actors interacted in the past. Focus on the social tie has resulted in increased interest in relational instruments that have not previously been taken into great consideration. This article analyses some of these instruments, and particularly godparenthood and marriage witnessing, as ways to establish formal and public ties. It shows that formalisation, ritualisation and publicity of ties were used by entrepreneurs to establish trust with their business associates, in situations when information was asymmetric or when institutions were perceived as inefficient in guaranteeing mutual good behaviour. The paper underlines both factors of continuity and factors of change over time, from the Middle Ages to today, paying particular attention to the consequences of Reformation and Counter-Reformation on one hand, and of Industrial Revolution and Modernization on the other. It shows, in the light of the most recent literature, that much of what we think to know about the declining importance, for social and economic activity, of family ties and of weaker ties such as godparenthood, is actually a kind of prejudice originating from a twentieth-century ideology of the market in which ancient practices struggle to find a place but are not abandoned.

Suggested Citation

  • Guido Alfani & Vincent Gourdon, 2010. "Entrepreneurs, formalisation of social ties and trustbuilding in Europe (14th-20th centuries)," Working Papers 025, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
  • Handle: RePEc:don:donwpa:025
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    File URL: ftp://ftp.dondena.unibocconi.it/WorkingPapers/Dondena_WP025.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Marco Cucculelli & Valentina Peruzzi & Alberto Zazzaro, 2016. "Relational capital in lending relationships: Evidence from European family firms," CERBE Working Papers wpC12, CERBE Center for Relationship Banking and Economics.
    2. Guido Alfani & Vincent Gourdon & Agnese Vitali, 2011. "Social customs and demographic change: The case of godparenthood in Catholic Europe," Working Papers 040, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    3. Marco Cucculelli & Valentina Peruzzi & Alberto Zazzaro, 2016. "Relational capital in lending relationships: Evidence from European family firms," CERBE Working Papers wpC12, CERBE Center for Relationship Banking and Economics.
    4. Hilde Bras, 2014. "Structural and diffusion effects in the Dutch fertility transition, 1870-1940," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 30(5), pages 151-186, January.
    5. Pierluigi Murro & Valentina Peruzzi, 2017. "Family firms and access to credit. Is family ownership beneficial?," CERBE Working Papers wpC23, CERBE Center for Relationship Banking and Economics.
    6. Maria Rosaria Carillo & Vincenzo Lombardo & Alberto Zazzaro, 2013. "Family Firm Connections and Entrepreneurial Human Capital in the Process of Development," Mo.Fi.R. Working Papers 89, Money and Finance Research group (Mo.Fi.R.) - Univ. Politecnica Marche - Dept. Economic and Social Sciences.
    7. Maria Rosaria Carillo & Vincenzo Lombardo & Alberto Zazzaro, 2015. "Family Firms and Entrepreneurial Human Capital in the Process of Development," CSEF Working Papers 400, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    godparenthood; spiritual kinship; marriage witnesses; trust; entrepreneurship; Industrial Revolution; Reformation; formalisation of social ties;

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