«Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades des Fachbereichs Wirtschaftswissenschaften der Johann-Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am ...»
Systems develop a characteristic ‗wholeness‘ or unity that includes a specific set of values and a particular socio-economic structure. The nature of the unity is quite varied; it can stem from diverse sources, such as religion or technology that often are also combined.119 ―Individual behavior is explained when it is shown to fit into an institutional structure of behavioral norms, and institutional structure is explained when it is shown to fit into a cultural context‖.120 A theory is then formed from a set of patterns fitting together. The theorist takes the validated hypotheses derived from the holistic research process and links them to form a pattern. The institutional structure of the model is embedded in a specific cultural context with certain behavioral norms, showing a multiplicity of connections between the parts and the whole of the described system. Abraham Kaplan describes this type of model as a pyramid, with basic principles at the top of the hierarchic theory and deductions derived from them at the bottom. He claims that human behavior can be ―explained when it is deduced from basic postulates and initial conditions‖ and refers to pattern models as a form of storytelling.121 Generally, prediction is not considered to be important for this method and therefore ―the accuracy of predictions cannot be the main form of verification in the pattern model‖.122 Nevertheless, the model can be tested empirically.
In order to do so, hypothesized institutional structures, serving as qualitative patterns, are compared with observations. In this process, the model is fine-tuned with respect to its coherence and the interconnections between parts and whole. For institutional economics it is of major importance that these institutional structures are as realistic as possible, and therefore institutionalists look for structural evidence to prove their theories, which includes norms of behavior and power relations. The individual has to fit into this structure, which in turn has to fit into a bigger cultural context.
Hence, institutional economics bases its models on case studies of specific historical conditions, each possessing a unique set of institutions. If we take a basic type of theory for illustrative purposes, for the creation of a consumption theory an institutionalist examines the cultural and social structure surrounding an individual to construct a pattern of consumer behavior. This theoretical analysis is followed by an empirical test that compares the interpretations of the researcher with data from other case studies and further data sources Wilber, 1978, p. 79.
Dugger, 1979, p. 900.
Kaplan, 1964, p. 298, also see p. 332-346, Wilber, 1978, p. 71.
Wilber, 1978, p. 78.
so that the structure of the model can be compared with the concrete real types in the world.123 This kind of investigative technique was used by Veblen in his narrative description of institutional change, especially in his study The Theory of the Leisure Class, where he creates a theory of consumption using the procedure described before.124 First, he constructed a basic pattern model, which was extended by some case studies that he conducted himself and in which he attempted to find structural evidence. He used this to understand economic problems, not predict certain outcomes.125 A multitude of similar studies can be found in the Journal of Economic Issues as well as in the Journal of Institutional Economics, where also more recent examples of consumption theories are included using the same technique for developing theories based on case studies.126 The
to one of those articles states: ―This article presents several case studies of the dimensions of behavioral lock-in or lock-ins emanating from learning and habituation. […] Once a product has become established as an industry standard and once consumers or users have invested time or money in learning a particular system or becoming comfortable with a traditional practice, they will be less likely to try a rival process, even if over time it proves superior….Institutional influence can habituate economic actors over time into particular behavior…―.127 Even while using terminology that is more closely associated with NIE, and even employing the QWERTY example introduced below, the authors‘ methodology is that of the old institutionalism.128 However, for institutionalists it is important to scrutinize as many sources of evidence as possible to evaluate hypotheses and test the plausibility of the initial interpretation. For institutionalists, modeling is a continuous process which never ends, since institutional change requires new case studies and the need to constantly update and revise theories including their hypotheses according to the new data. This type of model is continuously augmented with new details, and is therefore never completed.129 Institutional models are therefore constructed according to descriptive realism, which means they are very detailed. In the case of consumption theories this implies that individuals are based on real consumers. Hence, the aim of pattern models is not to form law-like statements, or to be especially rigorous with respect to general applicability, but instead to Wilber, 1978, p. 76-80.
Veblen, 1964 .
Wilber, 1978, p. 72.
For example Barnes, 2004 and Redmond, 2001.
See fn 148.
Wilber, 1978, p. 75ff.
understand and explain, rather than to predict, a specific situation. As a result it does not determine the precise behavior of individuals, but defines a range of possible solutions.
Due to its characteristics, a pattern model determines a ―spectrum of acceptable alternatives from which individuals can choose‖, which is of a qualitative, not quantitative, character.130 A pattern model provides understanding, not predictions and has therefore much in common with anthropology, which uses cultural patterns as its unit of analysis.131 This can be demonstrated with a trivial example taken from Dugger: ―Knowing the norms of dress established in a particular organization does not give […] the power to predict exactly what Mr. Jones will wear on Monday. Nevertheless, an institutionalist would argue that although his coat might be either dark gray or pale brown, if Jones is an IBM executive, he will wear a suit and tie. Also, he will live in a particular kind of house […], even though his exact address is problematic. Jones will drink scotch, not beer; he will marry a thin woman, not a fat one…‖.132 This rather trifling example illustrates that institutionalism aims at making qualitative statements, not specific, quantitative ones.
Additionally, it is thus possible to detect Kuhn‘s distinction between normal and revolutionary science133 within institutional economics: the former in conducting case studies and constructing pattern out of them; the latter in the replacement of old patterns with new ones, better fitted to the ‗real‘ world.134 Although not creating a general model, the process of comparison can reveal a typology. A type is defined as an abstract description of situations or phenomena, indicating the characteristics of particular importance to a system. A type summarizes the analyzed cases, and in this respect gains reality in the sense that it describes the concrete reality of the system. It is therefore not the type itself which is real, but the cases. Typologies reduce overly complex features and deliver some level of abstraction. They guide the researcher towards relevant questions connected to the cases, but they are also dangerous because they invite the creation of stereotypes. This is especially dangerous in a situation where a theorist has a great deal of theory but not enough empirical case studies.135 This approach enables this dissertation to define different types of Capitalism, each dependent on the specific cultural and institutional environment of a country. The individual itself does not play a central role in those scenarios; it is rather the nature of its embeddedDugger, 1979, p. 905.
Wilber, 1978, p. 77ff.
Dugger, 1979, p. 905.
Kuhn, 1981, chap. 12: Second thoughts on paradigms.
Wilber, 1978, p. 68, Dugger, 1979, p. 906.
Wilber, 1978, p. 78f.
ness in institutional structures which is of central interest. Institutionalism is a means of providing critical insight into the dynamics of social change and explaining human behavior within its institutional and cultural context in a narrative way. Institutionalism employs pattern models to explain human behavior within its institutional and cultural context in a narrative way. These models are based on case studies of special or historical environments each coming with their own set of institutions. For example, to create a theory of Chinese Capitalism, an institutionalist looks at the cultural setting surrounding the individual to construct a pattern of economic behavior. Ideally, the model is then followed by an empirical test that compares the interpretations with data from case studies and other data sources to see if the structure of the model coincides with that of the concrete reality of the world. For institutionalists, modeling is a continuous process which never ends, because there are always new case studies or changes in institutions; and so the theory has to be constantly updated and evaluated against the new data. This means the model is constantly revised and filled with new details, and is therefore never completed. Hence, the aim of institutionalism is not to be especially rigorous, or to be applicable on a general level by forming law-like statements, but to be able to understand and explain, rather than predict, a specific situation.136 Within this structure, the Chinese type of capitalist economy can be analyzed and defined as a distinct form of economic system. It supports the view that different sets of institutions can lead to different forms of Capitalism, depending on the cultural and institutional environment. ―The point is that the attainment of acceptable explanations is not the accumulation of eternal and absolute truths; we have not, in attaining them, laid another brick on the edifice, not fitted another piece into the mosaic. What has happened is that we have found something which serves the ends of inquiry at a particular time and place; we have gotten hold of an idea which we can do something with-not to set our minds at rest but to turn their restlessness into productive channels. Explanations do not provide us with something over and above what we can put to some use, and this statement is as true of understanding as it is of prediction‖.137
Dugger, 1979, p. 904f., Wilber, 1978, p. 63.
Kaplan, 1964, p. 355.
2.4. Institutional change
“It is a time-honored Japanese gardening technique to prepare a tree for transplanting by slowly and carefully binding the roots over a period of time, bit by bit, to prepare the tree for the shock of the change it is about to experience.
This process, called nemawashi, takes time and patience, but it rewards you, if done properly, with a healthy transplanted tree”.138 All theories of institutional change, independent of their theoretical provenance, shed light on institutions and their development over time. So although the theory of institutional change emphasized in this chapter has its background in NIE, it nevertheless is surprisingly similar to the analyses of the Older Institutional School, which used different terms and less clear structures to describe the same basic elements of institutional change. However, American Institutionalists also sought to explain institutional change, and even conceived it as their most important task.139 ―Institutionalists use the ‗going concern‘ or the ‗institution‘ as their unit of analysis, not because the choice behavior of individuals does not matter, but because institutionalists are concerned primarily with the very long-run process of institutional change….[I]nstitutionalists are more interested in explaining the evolution of institutions or of going concerns than they are in explaining individual choice‖.140 As described above, they developed certain analytical tools to describe the change in institutions over time, mostly understood as technological progress.141 Veblen for example conceived every culture as consisting of both dynamic and static elements. He defined the dynamic component as technology, and the static one as institutions that exist ―simultaneously and in symbiotic relationships in all cultures. It is important to understand, and it frequently is misunderstood, that technology does not refer to artifacts or institutions to social structures. Technology and institutions are patterns of behavior; they are social processes. The test of truth and validity for institutional patterns is authority, for example, law, religion, custom, magic and myth. The test for technology is its ability to achieve a specific end-in-view. Technological patterns are developmental; institutional patterns are inhibitory or, at best, permissive‖.142 This dichotomy between technology and institutions can be said to be the foundation of Veblen‘s theoretical writing.143 Hence, institutionalists stress the importance of technology as a major component in the transformation of economic systems. ―While generally not monistically deterministic with regard to technology Morita, 1986, p. 158.
Dugger, 1977, p. 453.
Dugger, 1977, p. 452f. See also above, chapter 2.1.
For a summary please refer to Bush, 1987.
Miller, 2003, p. 55, Hamilton, 1967, p. 313f.
Miller, 2003, p. 55.