My research concerns the
institutional foundations of economic systems. Institutions constitute
the legal architecture of markets and of market processes. All economies
are constituted (defined) by their legal structures that give specific content
to market processes. I am interested in the existing institutional
arrangements, and in the process of institutional change. Below I describe
four recent books that reflect this emphasis on the institutional foundations
of economic systems, how those institutional arrangements serve to structure
human behaviors, and how public policy must be understood as a quest for reason
Below I describe four of my recent
books. I also provide a link to an abbreviated version of my C.V. as well as
links to four journal articles that may be of interest.
INDIVIDUALISM: A CRISIS OF CAPITALISM, Oxford University
Anxiety and alienation threaten
modern democracies. Political anger runs rampant in the United States, Britain
wants to leave the European Union, authoritarian governments control several
European countries, and millions of desperate migrants are streaming north out
of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Many people blame stagnant
household incomes and economic inequality. However, Possessive Individualism argues that the origins of world
disorder are in the failure of the Enlightenment to anticipate the acquisitive
individual as a creature of global capitalism.
In this book I provide a critique of contemporary capitalism to explain why
the world now finds itself in widespread disorder. Capitalism's basic flaw is 'possessive
individualism.' Glorification of the rational individual, motivated by
acquisitiveness, prevents the adoption of necessary government programs that
would ease the economic burden on beleaguered households. Meanwhile, possessive
individualism enables managerial capitalism to suppress wages and salaries,
embrace automation, and move jobs overseas. Capitalism is no longer an engine
of improved livelihoods and social hope.
Drawing on evolutionary institutional economics and political theory, this
book offers two remedies to the crisis of modern capitalism. Escape from the
crisis requires that the isolated acquisitive individual rediscovers a sense of
loyalty to others as neighbors, as colleagues, and as participants in the
shared social process of living.
Escape also requires that the private firm be reimagined as a public trust
in which the economic well-being of employees becomes a central part of its purpose.
In the absence of these dual transformations, capitalism as we know it cannot
ENVIRONMENTAL HERESIES: THE QUEST FOR
REASONABLE, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. (with Juha Hiedanp )
In this book, we deconstruct the pervasive and
counter-productive discourse surrounding environmental policy. We argue that
environmental policy problems are always framed such that conflict is
inevitable: a particular project or policy must be accepted
versus a specific environmental asset that must be protected.
Over the course of 12 chapters, we demonstrate that confident yet contradictory
assertions by contending interests preclude necessary deliberation and reason
giving. We argue that
deliberation is an important social process of reflecting upon the reasons for doing
something. Our approach allows discourse and collaboration to continue, until
after honest and informed deliberation, the better way forward is arrived at.
This approach to environmental policy illustrates just how very constructive
and enabling the quest for the reasonable can be.
PEOPLE, VULNERABLE STATES: REDEFINING THE DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGE, Routledge, 2012. (with Glen Anderson)
Over five decades
of economic and technical assistance to the countries of Africa and the Middle
East have failed to improve the life prospects for over 1.4 billion people who
remain vulnerable. Billions of dollars have been spent on such assistance and
yet little progress has been made. Persistent hunger and hopelessness threaten
more than individuals and families. These conditions foster political
alienation that can easily metastasize into hostility and aggression. Recent
uprisings in the Middle East are emblematic of this problem. Vulnerable
people give rise to vulnerable states.
We challenge the
dominant catechism of development assistance by arguing that the focus on
economic growth (and fighting poverty) has failed to bring about the promised
convergence. Poor people and poor countries have clearly not closed the
gap on the rich industrialized world. Pursuing convergence has been a failure.
Here we argue that development assistance must be reconstituted to focus on
creating economic coherence. People are vulnerable because the
economies in which they are embedded do not cohere. The absence of
economic coherence means that economic processes do not work as they must if
individual initiative is to result in improved livelihoods. Weak and
vulnerable states must be strengthened so that they can become partners in the
process of creating economic coherence. When economies do not cohere,
countries become breeding grounds for localized civil conflicts that often
spill across national borders.
This book explains the necessary
building blocks of economic coherence. It then develops a diagnostic
approach to demonstrate how to identify impediments to the efficient
functioning of essential economic processes. Finally, the book contains an
extensive treatment of the policy-reform process, complete with a practical
guide to how donors can work with governments to create economic coherence.
REASON: VOLITIONAL PRAGMATISM AND THE MEANING OF ECONOMIC INSTITUTIONS,
Princeton University Press, 2006.
institutions constitute the customary and legal foundations of the economy.
Institutions comprise the behavioral architecture that defines the choice sets,
the fields of action, for all participants in an economy. Economists,
philosophers, historians, legal scholars, and sociologists hold starkly
differing accounts of these institutions, and of the process of institutional
change. In this book, I advance an original theory of institutions and of the
process of institutional change. It is a theory that accommodates the
conceptual richness of all the social sciences. I avoid the circularities of
standard accounts that regard institutional change as the inevitable
manifestation of power, or as the continual pursuit of efficiency.
on the works of John R. Commons, Thorstein Veblen, G.L.S. Shackle, John Dewey,
Charles Sanders Peirce, and Richard Rorty, I develop
a non-normative theory that brings necessary clarity and coherence to this
important area of social science scholarship. Volitional pragmatism
elaborates the idea of the human will in action, looking to the future, seeking
ways to work out how we wish that future to unfold and then crafting the
institutional arrangements that will plausibly bring that future about. This
is not the mechanism of economic theories of institutional change, but is
rather the volition of final cause--an outcome in the future for the sake of
which particular actions today seem both necessary and sufficient. Institutional
change is properly modeled, in democratic societies, as the quest for what
seems better, at the moment, to do. Institutional change entails sufficient
A FEW OTHER
(click on the button at left for a pdf version)
Volitional Pragmatism: The Collective Construction of Rules to Live By, The
Economics, Journal of Economic Issues, 50(2):309-25, June 2016.
The French Revolution and German Industrialization: Dubious Models and Doubtful
Causality, Journal of Institutional Economics, March 2016 (with Michael
Where is the Backward Russian
Peasant? Evidence Against the Superiority of Private Farming, 1883 1913, Journal
of Peasant Studies, 42(2):425-47, 2015 (with Michael Kopsidis and Katja Bruish).