On the evolutionary character of North's idea of institutional change 1
The main objective is to discuss the historical-evolutionary character of the latest work of Douglass North. His views have been lately criticized, especially as far as their historical insight is concerned, as well as the nature of the concepts and the ideas he used. Three interconnected arguments dealing with North's neoclassical roots, his individualistic point of departure and his inclination to universalistic explanations sustain this allegation, and they will be presented in the first part. In the second part, a response to these arguments is suggested. Finally, the evolutionary character of his later work is discussed and established in the last part. It is held that by introducing ‘culture’ into the heart of the analysis of institutional change, North is oriented toward context dependent and consequently historically specific explanations.
1 An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the EAEPE Crete Conference, 2004. Michalis Psalidopoulos and Euclid Tsakalotos have made valuable suggestions and should be thanked for. The author is very grateful to the editor and the anonymous referees of this Journal for their very constructive criticisms, and recognizes responsibility for the remaining deficiencies.