The Evolution of Institutional Economics: Agency, Structure, and Darwinism in American Institutionalism

The Evolution of Institutional Economics: Agency, Structure, and Darwinism in American Institutionalism

The Evolution of Institutional Economics: Agency, Structure, and Darwinism in American Institutionalism

The Evolution of Institutional Economics: Agency, Structure, and Darwinism in American Institutionalism

Excerpt

My previous monograph - How Economics Forgot History - was about the limits of general theory in the social sciences. It favoured approaches that are sensitive to key differences in socio-economic systems through time and space. I explained how this problem of historical specificity had been recognized in the 1840s by Karl Marx and by members of the German historical school, and that it was at the centre of theoretical discourse in economics for 100 years. However, largely due to the catastrophes of Nazism and the Second World War, this vital problem in social science unfortunately disappeared from the principal agendas of research.

When I wrote How Economics Forgot History I planned a succeeding volume with a similarly historical narrative on the problem of agency and structure. But How Economics Forgot History did not announce that it was to be the first of two volumes. That might have tempted fate. I am not superstitious. But one cannot be too careful.

This is the previously unannounced second volume. The two volumes can be read in any order, but consideration of their order of publication is to be preferred. The theoretical focus here is on the interaction between the individual and society. The relationship between individual agency and social structure is uppermost and equal in importance to the problem of historical specificity for all the social sciences. It involves key questions of ontology and explanation. What is social structure and how does it relate to and affect individual agents? Do social structures have characteristics that are not found among the individuals involved? Is it possible and desirable to explain social structures in terms of individuals? Or to explain individuals in terms of social structures? Or are superior modes of explanation available?

Even at the end of the twentieth century, central issues in the analysis of the relationship between agency and structure remained incompletely resolved. The argument in the present book is that materials towards a solution to some of these unresolved issues lie in works that appeared - largely in the United States of America - principally from the 1890s to the 1920s. These materials have remained largely unrecognized and undeveloped. The past has become a foreign and unfamiliar country. But also these

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.