Was Frank Knight an Institutionalist?
This paper critically examines Geoffrey Hodgson's recent provocative claim about Frank Knight as being a member of American institutionalism in the interwar years. In the first section of the paper the authors attempt to provide a definition of institutionalism and to emphasize its meaning from a historiographic point of view. The second and third sections analyze the two main methodological struggles between Knight and the institutionalists, namely, the debate during the early 1020s over the use of instinct theory as an explanation of economic behavior, and the subsequent campaign led by Knight in the late 1920s and early 1930s against the behaviorist wing of American institutionalism à la Copeland and Ayres. The fourth section deals with Knight's own brand of institutionalism. Our main conclusions are that, even if Knight's approach to the study of economic behavior shows some significant affinities with American institutionalism, he was not – both sociologically and in terms of his philosophical premises - an institutionalist.
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- Knight, Frank H., 1922. "Ethics and the Economic Interpretation," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 36, pages 454-481, May.
- Asso, Pier Francesco & Fiorito, Luca, 2004. "Human Nature and Economic Institutions: Instinct Psychology, Behaviorism, and the Development of American Institutionalism," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(04), pages 445-477, December.
- Frank H. Knight, 1922. "Ethics and the Economic Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(3), pages 454-481.
- Pier Francesco Asso & Luca Fiorito, 2004. "Lawrence Kelso Frank's Proto-Ayresian Dichotomy," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 36(3), pages 557-578, Fall.
- Rutherford, Malcolm, 2002. "Morris A. Copeland: A Case Study in the History of Institutional Economics," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(03), pages 261-290, September.
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