The Way We Were: Reflections on the Comparative History of Comparative Economics
25 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2011
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
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