Institutions and Economic History: A Critique of Professor McCloskey

AVNER GREIF AND JOEL MOKYR
JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS 12.1 (2016): 29-41

Abstract: Professor McCloskey makes many telling and insightful points in her survey and criticism of what she terms the new institutional economics; yet there are a number of shortcomings to her paper. One is that she has bundled together a variety of quite disparate approaches to the role institutions play, and refers to them as ‘neo-institutionalist’. We unbundle these different strands, and show that an undifferentiated critique is unwarranted. A second argument made by her is that an institutional approach cannot explain either the Industrial Revolution or what she calls ‘the Great Enrichment’. We show that this conclusion is unwarranted and results from an overly narrow definition of institutions.