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Beyond Individualism in Law and Economics

Robert B. Ahdieh

Emory University School of Law

July 8, 2012

Boston University Law Review, Vol. 91, 2011
Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-213

The study of law and economics was built upon two pillars. The first is the familiar assumption of individual rationality. The second, less familiar, is the principle of methodological individualism. Over the last twenty years, law and economics has largely internalized behavioral critiques of the rationality assumption. By contrast, the field has failed to appreciate the implications of growing challenges to its methodological individualism. Where social norms shape individual choices, network externalities are strong, coordination is the operative goal, or information is a substantial determinant of value, a methodology strongly oriented to the analysis of individuals overlooks at least as much as it reveals. Among other potential distortions, indicia of consent may be given greater weight than they deserve, the evolution of law and norms may be underemphasized, and our regulation of information, knowledge, and even the financial markets may be flawed. As with the shift toward a more careful approach to rationality, then, attention to the limits of methodological individualism may lead us to a richer account of law and economics.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: law and economics, individualism, methodological individualism, rationality, neoclassical economics, Austrian economics, social norms, network effects, network externalities, coordination, coordination games, information, knowledge, behaviorial economics, community

JEL Classification: B31, B41, D83, D84, K00

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Date posted: July 9, 2012 ; Last revised: September 24, 2012

Suggested Citation

Ahdieh, Robert B., Beyond Individualism in Law and Economics (July 8, 2012). Boston University Law Review, Vol. 91, 2011; Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-213. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2102357

Contact Information

Robert B. Ahdieh (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-4924 (Phone)
404-727-6820 (Fax)

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