Understanding the Process of Economic Change

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Overview

"Just as Douglass North's earlier classic, Institutions and Institutional Change, ushered in the revolution in understanding institutions that dominated the nineties, his new book, Understanding the Process of Economic Change, seeks an equally revolutionary change. North now integrates the cognitive component into this analysis: how the mind works, how we form beliefs and understandings about the world, and how societies solve--or fail to solve--the problems they face. This book is vintage North."--Barry Weingast, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

"In this book Douglass North once again opens new frontiers in economic research. He calls for probing into the human mind to seek an understanding of how knowledge acquired by individuals and societies manifests itself culturally and institutionally to shape processes of change. The analysis makes a courageous foray into territories unfamiliar to most economists, such as social psychology and cognitive science, and uses the findings to further our understanding of the most pressing economic question of our time: why, despite the production capacity of modern technology, do many economies fail to prosper?"--Avner Greif, Bowman Family Professor in the Humanities and Sciences and Professor of Economics, Stanford University

"This short book by a great master will be read, discussed, and debated widely. It boldly goes where few have dared to tread. It is a book about something more ambitious than economic growth or even economic history. It is about economic change, and it dares to ask questions that the profession will still be scratching its head over for many years to come."--Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University, author of The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy

"This deeply exciting book culminates North's research agenda, and points the way to solving the most valuable but intractable problem in economics today: how institutions evolve. When I first read it I immediately saw implications for my own research, and began rethinking several fundamental ideas about how economies and their governments interrelate. What you learn from North changes how you think, and changing how people think is the best measure of intellectual influence."--John Joseph Wallis, University of Maryland

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Editorial Reviews

Times Higher Education
Anyone with an interest in world poverty can benefit from this carefully crafted and closely argued book. It is a pleasure and a delight to read.
— Paul Ormerod
Cato Journal
[North] sets forth a radical reconceptualization of the task and methods of the social sciences in general and economics in particular, providing a glimpse at an economics that refuses to 'assume a can opener.'
— Will Wilkinson
Foreign Affairs
[This book] provides a sweeping view of the relationships among human belief systems, social institutions, and what [North] calls 'the adaptive efficiency' of societies in coping with changes in demographics, technology, and other factors.
— Richard N. Cooper
Journal of Evolutionary Economics
A courageous attempt to enlarge the arsenal of theoretical tools available for economists.
— Diego Rios
Times Higher Education - Paul Ormerod
Anyone with an interest in world poverty can benefit from this carefully crafted and closely argued book. It is a pleasure and a delight to read.
Cato Journal - Will Wilkinson
[North] sets forth a radical reconceptualization of the task and methods of the social sciences in general and economics in particular, providing a glimpse at an economics that refuses to 'assume a can opener.'
Foreign Affairs - Richard N. Cooper
[This book] provides a sweeping view of the relationships among human belief systems, social institutions, and what [North] calls 'the adaptive efficiency' of societies in coping with changes in demographics, technology, and other factors.
Journal of Evolutionary Economics - Diego Rios
A courageous attempt to enlarge the arsenal of theoretical tools available for economists.
From the Publisher

"Anyone with an interest in world poverty can benefit from this carefully crafted and closely argued book. It is a pleasure and a delight to read."--Paul Ormerod, Times Higher Education

"[North] sets forth a radical reconceptualization of the task and methods of the social sciences in general and economics in particular, providing a glimpse at an economics that refuses to 'assume a can opener.'"--Will Wilkinson, Cato Journal

"[This book] provides a sweeping view of the relationships among human belief systems, social institutions, and what [North] calls 'the adaptive efficiency' of societies in coping with changes in demographics, technology, and other factors."--Richard N. Cooper, Foreign Affairs

"A courageous attempt to enlarge the arsenal of theoretical tools available for economists."--Diego Rios, Journal of Evolutionary Economics

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Douglass C. North is professor of economics and Spencer T. Olin Professor in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. He was the corecipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1993.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Chapter 1 An Outline of the Process of Economic Change 1

Part I The Issues Involved in Understanding Economic Change 9

Introduction 11

Chapter 2 Uncertainty in a Non-ergodic World 13

Chapter 3 Belief Systems, Culture, and Cognitive Science 23

Chapter 4 Consciousness and Human Intentionality 38

Chapter 5 The Scaffolds Humans Erect 48

Chapter 6 Taking Stock 65

Part II The Road Ahead 81

Introduction 83

Chapter 7 The Evolving Human Environment 87

Chapter 8 The Sources of Order and Disorder 103

Chapter 9 Getting It Right and Getting It Wrong 116

Chapter 10 The Rise of the Western World 127

Chapter 11 The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union 146

Chapter 12 Improving Economic Performance 155

Chapter 13 Where Are We Going? 166

Bibliography 171

Index 183

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