Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History

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All societies must deal with the possibility of violence, and they do so in different ways. This book integrates the problem of violence into a larger social science and historical framework, showing how economic and political behavior are closely linked. Most societies, which we call natural states, limit violence by political manipulation of the economy to create privileged interests. These privileges limit the use of violence by powerful individuals, but doing so hinders both economic and political development. In contrast, modern societies create open access to economic and political organizations, fostering political and economic competition. The book provides a framework for understanding the two types of social orders, why open access societies are both politically and economically more developed, and how some 25 countries have made the transition between the two types.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"While there is still much more work to be done in understanding how to get from here to there, the authors' insights regarding the control of violence in natural, limited access societies versus modern, open-access societies are nonetheless major contributions.... North, Wallis, and Weingast's analysis of violence and its suppression provides a simple, straightforward path to understanding both authoritarianism and transitional violence." - D. Roderick Kiewiet, California Institute of Technology, Journal of Economic History

"A demanding but rewarding work, with intriguing echoes of Marx.... Highly recommended." - Choice

"With bravado, abandon, and great learning, North, Wallis, and Weingast have produced an excellent read-a book that is intriguing, entertaining, irritating, and provocative. Violence and Social Orders is an important book that deserves a wide readership. Its concepts will shape academic discourse and its arguments in the fields of economic history and development studies." - Robert Bates, Harvard University, Journal of Economic Literature

"... strong, persuasive ... Anyone interested in development, economic history, the analysis of institutions or the idea of a generalized social science would do well to read this book. ... what is new in the book is the way its authors have connected, systematized and synthesized these previously disparate ideas to produce the limited-/open-access framework with which they propose to interpret human history. Their framework proves strikingly effective at this task. ... the new social science paradigm it presents is compelling and worthy of wide attention." - Mark Holden, International Affairs

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521761734
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/26/2009
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 3.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglass C. North is co-recipient of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. He is Spencer T. Olin Professor in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as Director of the Center for Political Economy from 1984 to 1990 and is Bartlett Burnap Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a former member of the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research for 20 years, Professor North received the John R. Commons Award in 1992. The author of 10 books, including Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (Cambridge University Press, 1990) and Understanding the Process of Economic Change (2005), his research interests include property rights, economic organization in history, and the formation of political and economic institutions and their consequences through time. He is a frequent consultant for the World Bank and numerous countries on issues of economic growth.

John Joseph Wallis is Professor of Economics at the University of Maryland, College Park and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1981 and went on to spend a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. During the 2006-07 academic year, he was a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution and a visiting professor of political science at Stanford. In spring of 2008 he was a visiting professor of economics at Harvard. Professor Wallis is an economic historian who specializes in the public finance of American governments and more generally on the relation between the institutional development of governments and the development of economies. His large-scale research on American state and local government finance, and on American state constitutions, has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

Barry R. Weingast is the Ward C. Krebs Family Professor in the Department of Political Science and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1977. Prior to teaching at Stanford, Professor Weingast spent ten years at Washington University in St. Louis in the Department of Economics and the School of Business. The recipient of the Riker Prize, the Heinz Eulau Prize, and the James Barr Memorial Prize, among others, he has also worked extensively with development agencies such as the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Professor Weingast coauthored Analytical Narratives (1998) and coedited The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy (2006). His research focuses on the political foundations of markets, economic reform, and regulation, including problems of political economy of development, federalism and decentralization, and legal institutions.

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Table of Contents

1. The conceptual framework; 2. The natural state; 3. The natural state applied: English land law; 4. Open access orders; 5. Explaining the transition from limited to open access orders: the doorstep conditions; 6. The transition proper; 7. A new research agenda for the social sciences.

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