Under the Thumb of History? Political Institutions and the Scope for Action

MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 14-02

41 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2014

See all articles by Abhijit V. Banerjee

Abhijit V. Banerjee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 5, 2013

Abstract

This paper discusses the two leading views of history and political institutions. For some scholars, institutions are mainly products of historical logic, while for others, accidents, leaders, and decisions have a significant impact. We argue that while there is clear evidence that history matters and has long-term effects, there is not enough data to help us distinguish between the two views. Faced with this uncertainty, what is a social scientist to do? We argue that given the possibility that policy decisions indeed make a difference, it makes sense to assume they do and to try to improve policymaking.

Keywords: political economy, determinism

JEL Classification: O1, N30

Suggested Citation

Banerjee, Abhijit V. and Duflo, Esther, Under the Thumb of History? Political Institutions and the Scope for Action (October 5, 2013). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 14-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2382891 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2382891

Abhijit V. Banerjee (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Room E52-544
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-258-7013 (Phone)
617-253-6915 (Fax)

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD) ( email )

Duke University
Durham, NC 90097
United States

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