I’ll start my blog by a summary of a brilliant article published in an excellent review. For almost two decades now, economic historians have been toying with the concept of institutions. Everything has been said about it, and more often than not it led nowhere. This article is not revolutionary nor does it open a brand new field or create a new debate. On the contrary, this article ends a debate – for a while at least; and that is every bit as important.
OGILVIE Sheilagh (2007) “‘Whatever is, is right’? Economic institutions in pre-industrial Europe”, Economic Histroy Review, 60/4, 649-684.
Introduction: De gustibus non est disputantum
Before the introduction of the concept of institutions, economic history was chiefly concerned with the natural endowment of a given region and the technological advancement of a given time. Anything else was considered to depends on preferences which were deemed stable, exogenous and not really worth debating (649). But gradually man-made rules (be it political or social) appeared to be too important to be ignored. These ‘humanely devised constraints’ became the new craze in economic history (650). Read the rest of this entry »