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Interests versus culture in the theory of institutional change?


  • Zweynert, Joachim


This paper suggests an analytical framework to bring two explanations of institutional change together. My analysis rests on three building blocks: Firstly on the idea of the transfer or transplantation of institutions, secondly on the idea of functional differentiation, and thirdly and decisively on an understanding of culture as a toolkit leaving room for interest, choice and strategic action. The concepts of institutional transplantation and of functional differentiation will be introduced in the following section. In the third one, I will reformulate North's neoclassical theory of the state and his elaborations on culture and belief systems in terms of these concepts. Section four, then, offers a proposal of how to bridge the gap between the two approaches. Throughout the paper, I will use the example of Russia to illustrate my theoretical thoughts, a country I have been studying for years and which, as North (1999,9) remarks, is particularly suited to explain the problems of economic change. In section five I will outline in very basic terms how the history of failed attempts at reforms in Russia might be interpreted from the perspective developed here.

Suggested Citation

  • Zweynert, Joachim, 2007. "Interests versus culture in the theory of institutional change?," HWWI Research Papers 5-3, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:hwwirp:5-3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Polterovich, Victor, 2001. "Трансплантация Экономических Институтов
      [Transplantation of Economic Institutions]
      ," MPRA Paper 22034, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Zouboulakis, Michel, 2005. "On the evolutionary character of North's idea of institutional change," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(02), pages 139-153, December.
    3. Rutherford,Malcolm, 1996. "Institutions in Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521574471, March.
    4. Olson, Mancur, 1963. "Rapid Growth as a Destabilizing Force," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(04), pages 529-552, December.
    5. Tilman Slembeck, 1997. "The Formation of Economic Policy: A Cognitive-Evolutionary Approach to Policy-Making," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 225-254, August.
    6. repec:mes:jeciss:v:40:y:2006:i:4:p:895-918 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Morgan, Glenn & Whitley, Richard & Moen, Eli (ed.), 2006. "Changing Capitalisms?: Internationalization, Institutional Change, and Systems of Economic Organization," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199205288.
    8. Denzau, Arthur T & North, Douglass C, 1994. "Shared Mental Models: Ideologies and Institutions," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 3-31.
    9. repec:mes:jeciss:v:29:y:1995:i:2:p:443-451 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Douglass C. North, 2005. "Introduction to Understanding the Process of Economic Change," Introductory Chapters,in: Understanding the Process of Economic Change Princeton University Press.
    11. Wohlgemuth, Michael, 2002. "Evolutionary Approaches to Politics," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(2), pages 223-246.
    12. Douglass C. North, 2000. "Understanding institutions," Chapters,in: Institutions, Contracts and Organizations, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    13. Nils Goldschmidt & Bernd Remmele, 2005. "Anthropology as the basic science of economic theory: towards a cultural theory of economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 455-469.
    14. repec:mes:jeciss:v:40:y:2006:i:3:p:539-574 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Searle, John R., 2005. "What is an institution?," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 1-22, June.
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