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On pragmatist institutional economics


  • Yefimov, Vladimir


The movement of New Institutional Economics (NIE), born in the seventies, followed the Institutional Economics of John R. Commons by putting the notion of ‘transaction’ in the centre of its study. The seventies were a period of appearance of an absolute authority of neoclassical economics with its hypothetic-deductive (Cartesian and positivist) methodology and the NIE followed this methodology. The NIE was assimilated by many of the members of its community with ‘transaction costs economics’. In this way they have distorted totally the initial design of Commons’ institutional economics who saw the transaction as a unit of activity common to law, economics and ethics. Instead of Cartesian analytic philosophy, which is the philosophical foundation of neoclassical economic theory, he based his institutional economics on pragmatist philosophy of Charles S. Peirce and John Dewey. As Philip Mirowski has noted “these two traditions have a profound conflict over their respective images of a ‘science’, and therefore profoundly incompatible images of ‘economic man’ and ‘rationality’” (Mirowski, 1987). Commons used the pragmatism as a model of human behaviour and as a method of research. The paper discusses the pragmatist methodology and techniques from an institutional economist point of view. It is based on a personal experience of the author in application of these methodology and techniques for economic institutional investigations. This paper is an appeal to economists to adopt the pragmatist method. This method, in its modern form related to social sciences, is Qualitative Research. It is called ‘qualitative research’ because it deals with primarily qualitative data but its most important characteristic is its affiliation to the pragmatist paradigm.

Suggested Citation

  • Yefimov, Vladimir, 2004. "On pragmatist institutional economics," MPRA Paper 49016, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:49016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rutherford,Malcolm, 1996. "Institutions in Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521574471, March.
    2. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-955, December.
    3. Yefimov, Vladimir M., 1981. "Gaming-simulation of the functioning of economic systems," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 187-200, June.
    4. Friedman,Daniel & Sunder,Shyam, 1994. "Experimental Methods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521456821, April.
    5. Denzau, Arthur T & North, Douglass C, 1994. "Shared Mental Models: Ideologies and Institutions," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 3-31.
    6. Oliver E. Williamson, 2000. "The New Institutional Economics: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 595-613, September.
    7. Hands,D. Wade, 2001. "Reflection without Rules," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521797962, March.
    8. Ferber,Robert & Hirsch,Werner Z., 1982. "Social Experimentation and Economic Policy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521285070, April.
    9. Roth, Alvin E, 1988. "Laboratory Experimentation in Economics: A Methodological Overview," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(393), pages 974-1031, December.
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    More about this item


    Pragmatism; Peirce; Dewey; institutional economics; Commons; qualitative research;

    JEL classification:

    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology
    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology


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