'Just What is Going On Here?' An Homage

16 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2023 Last revised: 11 Apr 2024

See all articles by Barak D. Richman

Barak D. Richman

Duke University School of Law; CERC, Stanford Univ. School of Medicine; George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: March 2024


Oliver Williamson frequently told his students to ask, “what is going on here?” That question, for him, epitomized his open-ended, pluralist, and exploratory research method, which he often contrasted to more self-confident versions of academic orthodoxy. He believed that this approach, which implicitly incorporated sociology, psychology, anthropology, and political science into a broader economic inquiry, was most adept at understanding market behavior. It was especially useful in understanding economic phenomena that are hard to understand – which, poetically, are precisely the phenomena that offered the most lessons. This paper explores the origins of Williamson’s charge, how it benefited the research of his contemporaries and students, and how it offers a pathway to navigate some contemporary economic puzzles.

Suggested Citation

Richman, Barak D., 'Just What is Going On Here?' An Homage (March 2024). Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 86, No. 4, 2023, Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2023-38, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4499237

Barak D. Richman (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

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CERC, Stanford Univ. School of Medicine ( email )

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George Washington University - Law School ( email )

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