The Way We Were: Reflections on the Comparative History of Comparative Economics

25 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2011

See all articles by Peter Murrell

Peter Murrell

University of Maryland - Department of Economics

Date Written: November 10, 2011


This paper is a revision of the 2011 Presidential address to the Association for Comparative Economic Studies. It examines the characteristics of comparative economics in the years 1977-1992, using computational tools to conduct intellectual history, by collecting extensive data on the character of publications. These data, presented in figures, depict the distinctive characteristics of comparative economics, its analytical level, whether it was neoclassical or new-institutional, its degree of normativeness, the balance between theory and empirics, etc. Study of economic systems was a centerpiece of comparativists' research, leading to an unusually strong and early focus on institutions, culture, and the law. As a consequence of the emphasis on systems, the field chose a distinctive point on the trade-off between using advanced analytical techniques and focusing on topics not amenable to study with those techniques. Possibly, this was why comparativists had a distinctive approach in normative analyses of early transition.

Keywords: comparative economics, intellectual history, culturomics, socialism, institutions, transition

JEL Classification: B20, B40, C80, P00, P50

Suggested Citation

Murrell, Peter, The Way We Were: Reflections on the Comparative History of Comparative Economics (November 10, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Peter Murrell (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States
301-405-3476 (Phone)
301-405-3542 (Fax)

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