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The Roadblock of Culturalist Economics: Economic Change á la Douglass North

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  • Khalil, Elias

Abstract

In his 2005 book, Understanding the Process of Economic Change, North offers a rough account of economic change that can be called “culturalist economics.” In his account, he attributes the change of well being of individuals to, besides technology and demographics, cultural heritage or cultural beliefs. Using this basis, he then attributes "the mystery of the unique evolution of western Europe" to a causative view that combines "Christian dogma" and English "individualism." This combinatory belief assures property rights, and hence explains the success of Western Europe and the US and the failure of Islam and Latin America in terms of their respective economic development. But North’s culturalist economics faces a roadblock: it does not explain the origin of beliefs, and it neglects the role of rational choice in manufacturing beliefs. Specifically, it ignores the roles of agency, revolutionary change, and the dynamics of empire.

Suggested Citation

  • Khalil, Elias, 2006. "The Roadblock of Culturalist Economics: Economic Change á la Douglass North," MPRA Paper 1045, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:1045
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/1045/1/MPRA_paper_1045.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Bisin, Alberto & Verdier, Thierry, 2001. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and the Dynamics of Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 298-319, April.
    4. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-548, June.
    5. Kuran, Timur, 2003. "The Islamic Commercial Crisis: Institutional Roots of Economic Underdevelopment in the Middle East," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(02), pages 414-446, June.
    6. Eggertsson,Thrainn, 1990. "Economic Behavior and Institutions," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521348911, April.
    7. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Joachim Zweynert, 2015. "The concept of Ordnungspolitik through the lens of the theory of limited and open access orders," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 4-18, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    cultural economics vs. culturalist economics; reification of culture; Christian dogma; individualism; mystery of rise of Europe; Islam;

    JEL classification:

    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • N01 - Economic History - - General - - - Development of the Discipline: Historiographical; Sources and Methods
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General

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