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

Posted: 8 Aug 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)

Date Written: August 2014

Abstract

This article discusses the two leading views of history and political institutions. For some scholars, institutions are mainly products of historical logic, whereas for others, accidents, leaders, and decisions have a significant impact. We argue that although there is clear evidence that history matters and has long-term effects, there are 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 policy making.

Suggested Citation

Banerjee, Abhijit V. and Duflo, Esther, Under the Thumb of History? Political Institutions and the Scope for Action (August 2014). Annual Review of Economics, Vol. 6, pp. 951-971, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2477765 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-economics-080213-041110

Abhijit V. Banerjee

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

50 Memorial Drive
Room E52-252D
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-8855 (Phone)
617-253-6915 (Fax)

Esther Duflo (Contact Author)

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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