New Thinking in Political Economy series
Edited by Laura E. Grube and Virgil Henry Storr
Culture shapes economic behavior and colors economic outcomes. Although we may choose to avoid explicitly discussing culture within the social sciences, it will be implicit in our assumptions. The question, then, becomes how to incorporate culture into economic analysis. Some economists have conceived of culture as a tool or a resource as they have attempted to operationalize a difficult concept. Others have discussed culture as if it were a set of blinders, closing off some opportunities and focusing attention on others. Still others have treated culture as a lens through which we view the world, or perhaps colored glasses that establish a certain hue to our vision. In order to understand how culture shapes economic behavior, we might ask how culture influences a person’s expectations in the market as well as in what may be considered non-market settings. Do they believe that their peers and colleagues are trustworthy? Do they imagine that hard work is rewarded? Do they think that their family is likely to provide emotional and/or financial support? Economic outcomes and economic institutions are intimately tied to our answers to these questions. And the answers to these questions are in part shaped by culture. Moreover, when we discuss challenging topics such as economic development, we can benefit from paying attention to how culture has influenced economic activity in that context.