Wieser as a Theorist of Institutional Change
Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Forthcoming
34 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2016
Date Written: October 5, 2015
In this contribution, we provide an interpretation of Friedrich von Wieser’s contribution to economics, which pays tribute to the originality of his work, and particularly his view of how institutions interfere with individual behavior. This interaction takes place within a disequilibrium framework where social influences such as power or social class, and psychological factors such as force of habit or herd behavior, are the product of human action but also constitute constraints on further action. The section 1 stresses the institutionalist background of Wieser’s economics. We concentrate on Wieser’s general method – which we assimilate to an example of Joseph Agassi’s (1975) institutional individualism – and his analysis of the emergence and evolution of institutions via the dynamics of leaders and masses. In the section 2, we reinforce and illustrate the ‘institutionalist’ stamp of Wieser’s economics by focusing on his work on monetary economics (Wieser 1904, 1909a, 1909b, 1927b) and his analysis of the emergence of money, based on our reading of Wieser’s Social Economics (Wieser [1927a] 1967) and The Law of Power (Wieser  1983).
Keywords: Wieser, emergence and evolution of institutions, money, economic sociology
JEL Classification: B15, B31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation