A Research Agenda for New Institutional Economics
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A Research Agenda for New Institutional Economics

Edited by Claude Ménard and Mary M. Shirley

Consisting of 30 concise chapters written by top scholars, this Research Agenda probes the knowledge frontiers of issues long at the forefront of New Institutional Economics (NIE), including government, contracts and property rights. It examines pressing research questions surrounding norms, culture, and beliefs. It is designed to inform and inspire students and those starting their careers in economics, law and political science. Well-established scholars will also find the book invaluable in updating their understanding of crucial research questions and seeking new areas to explore.
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Chapter 17: The coevolution of institutions and culture

Bernardo Mueller

Abstract

Given that institutions are “humanly devised” (North, 1991, p. 97), what determines which institutions are chosen? Different societies have different understandings of how the world works and consequently tend to choose different institutions even when pursuing similar purposes. Therefore, culture matters, as culture determines the mental models that people use to understand and interpret the world, including beliefs, values and preferences. Yet culture has been relatively absent from economic inquiry, even among economists that focus on institutional economics. In this chapter, I review an emerging literature that focuses on understanding the interrelationship between culture and institutions. This literature shows that not only does culture influence which institutions different societies choose and how they work, but also that institutions can subsequently feedback and affect culture. That is, culture and institutions coevolve. This literature is still in the formative stages and there are many research opportunities for the interested researcher.

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