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John R. Commons, Wesley N. Hohfeld and the Origins of Transactional Economics

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  • Luca Fiorito

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Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

  • Luca Fiorito, 2008. "John R. Commons, Wesley N. Hohfeld and the Origins of Transactional Economics," Department of Economics University of Siena 536, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:536
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    File URL: http://repec.deps.unisi.it/quaderni/536.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. E. Roy Weintraub & Evelyn L. Forget, 2007. "Introduction," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 39(5), pages 1-6, Supplemen.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. repec:mes:jeciss:v:34:y:2000:i:2:p:291-303 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:mes:jeciss:v:30:y:1996:i:2:p:413-425 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:mes:jeciss:v:30:y:1996:i:4:p:1212-1216 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. 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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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B15 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B25 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Austrian; Stockholm School
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • K10 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - General (Constitutional Law)

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