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Taking capitalism seriously: Toward an institutionalist approach to contemporary political economy


  • Streeck, Wolfgang


This paper outlines an institutionalist political economy approach to capitalism as a specific type of social order. Social science institutionalism considers social systems to be structured by sanctioned rules of obligatory behavior. Its perspective is one of collective ordering, or governance, through regularization and normalization of social action, either by public authority or by private contract. Political economy looks at the interrelations between collective action in general and collective rule-making in particular, and the economy; it extends from economic and social policy-making to the way in which economic interests and constraints influence policy, politics and social life as a whole. The approach proposed in this article looks at society and economy as densely intertwined and closely interdependent, which is what traditional concepts of capitalism stood for. Proceeding from an institutionalist perspective, it elaborates a concept of capitalism not as a self-driven mechanism of surplus extraction and accumulation governed by objective laws, but as a set of interrelated social institutions, and as a historically specific system of structured as well as structuring social interaction within and in relation to an institutionalized social order.

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  • Streeck, Wolfgang, 2010. "Taking capitalism seriously: Toward an institutionalist approach to contemporary political economy," MPIfG Discussion Paper 10/15, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgd:1015

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    1. Beckert, Jens & Streeck, Wolfgang, 2008. "Economic sociology and political economy: A programmatic perspective," MPIfG Working Paper 08/4, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sharon Bolton & Knut Laaser & Darren Mcguire, 2016. "Quality Work and the Moral Economy of European Employment Policy," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(3), pages 583-598, May.
    2. Luigi Burroni & Maarten Keune & Guglielmo Meardi, 2012. "Introduction," Chapters,in: Economy and Society in Europe, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.

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