January 16, 2006

Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy

Lessons from Medieval Trade; Cambridge University Press, 2006
  • Avner Greif

    Bowman Family Endowed Professor in Humanities & Sciences, Stanford University
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It is widely believed that current disparities in economic, political, and social outcomes reflect distinct institutions. Institutions are invoked to explain why some countries are rich and others poor, some democratic and others dictatorial. But arguments of this sort gloss over the question of what institutions are, how they come about, and why they persist. They also fail to explain why institutions are influenced by the past, why it is that they can sometimes change, why they differ so much from society to society, and why it is hard to study them empirically and devise a policy aimed at altering them. This book seeks to overcome these problems, which have exercised economists, sociologists, political scientists, and a host of other researchers who use the social sciences to study history, law, and business administration. It presents a multi-disciplinary perspective to study endogenous institutions and their dynamics.

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