The Governance of Complexity
Edited by Kurt Dopfer
Chapter 4: Historical Economics and Evolutionary Economic Policy – Coasean Perspectives
* Matthias Klaes INTRODUCTION The work of Ronald H. Coase is typically discussed in the context of the neoliberal approach of the younger Chicago School, in particular with reference to certain economic policy implications of the Coase Theorem, and to Coase’s preference for the market to coordinate economic activity. While Stephen Medema (1996, 1999) and others have drawn attention in the meanwhile to the diﬀerence between Coase’s work and George Stigler’s (1966) ‘Coase Theorem’, the relationship between Coase’s institutional analysis and ‘mainstream law and economics’ (Kerber 2000, pp. 149–56) has remained less clear. Coase counts as one of the co-founders of this subdiscipline, which seems to suggest a continuity with neoliberal positions such as Richard Posner’s. However, this reading would gloss over signiﬁcant diﬀerences (Coase 1993; Williamson 1993). One can observe a similar appropriation of Coase’s work by the orthodox wing of the New Institutional Economics (Furubotn 1994). Given this threefold doctrinal canonisation of Coase’s work, his reception in evolutionary economics, which has been mostly critical, comes as no surprise. Not all authors share this critical reading. Nicolai Foss (1994), for example, has begun to speak of two Coasean traditions in order to draw out Coase’s potential for evolutionary economics. In the context of present debates on how an economic policy informed by the perspectives oﬀered by evolutionary economics should look (Slembeck 1997, Wegner 1997, Hodgson 1999), this poses the question to what extent a re-evaluation of Coase’s work may oﬀer a useful contribution to...
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