John R. Commons, Wesley N. Hohfeld and the Origins of Transactional Economics
The aim of this paper is to provide an assessment of John R. Commons’ adoption of Wesley N. Hohfeld’s framework of jural opposites and correlatives in order to construct his transactional approach to the study of institutions. Hohfeld’s influence on Commons, it is argued, was both positive and negative. On the one hand, Commons, followed Hohfeld and recognized that such concepts as property and inheritance actually represent an aggregation of numerous types of legal relations. Hohfeld’s schema provided a powerful rhetorical and analytical tool whereby these highly abstracts conceptions could be reduced to a limited number of primary elements. Moreover, Hohfeld’s schema appeared to be consistent with Commons’ general methodological and psychological commitments. On the other hand, Commons’ forging of “transaction” as the elementary unit of economic analysis can be seen as an attempt to go beyond Hohfeld. Commons was in fact unsatisfied with Hohfeld’s bi-lateral treatment of jural relations and with his neglect of the role played by state officials in enforcing transactions and, in so doing, in promoting specific individual interests as collective public policies
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- 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.
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- Morris A. Copeland, 1936. "Commons's Institutionalism in Relation to Problems of Social Evolution and Economic Planning," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(2), pages 333-346.
- Viktor Vanberg, 1997. "Institutional Evolution through Purposeful Selection: The Constitutional Economics of John R. Commons," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 105-122, June.
- Ugo Pagano, 2003. "Posiciones legales y complementariedades institucionales," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 5(9), pages 17-54, July-Dece.
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