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Violence and Social Orders


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Table of Contents

Preface; 1. The conceptual framework; 2. The natural state; 3. The natural state applied: English land law; 4. Open access orders; 5. Explaining the transition from limited to open access orders: the doorstep conditions; 6. The transition proper; 7. A new research agenda for the social sciences; Afterword.

Promotional Information

This book integrates the problem of violence into a larger framework, showing how economic and political behavior are closely linked.

About the Author

Douglass C. North is co-recipient of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. He is Spencer T. Olin Professor in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as Director of the Center for Political Economy from 1984 to 1990 and is Bartlett Burnap Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a former member of the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research for 20 years, Professor North received the John R. Commons Award in 1992. The author of 10 books, including Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (Cambridge University Press, 1990) and Understanding the Process of Economic Change (2005), his research interests include property rights, economic organization in history, and the formation of political and economic institutions and their consequences through time. He is a frequent consultant for the World Bank and numerous countries on issues of economic growth. John Joseph Wallis is Professor of Economics at the University of Maryland, College Park and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1981 and went on to spend a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. During the 2006-07 academic year, he was a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution and a visiting professor of political science at Stanford. In spring of 2008 he was a visiting professor of economics at Harvard. Professor Wallis is an economic historian who specializes in the public finance of American governments and more generally on the relation between the institutional development of governments and the development of economies. His large-scale research on American state and local government finance, and on American state constitutions, has been supported by the National Science Foundation. Barry R. Weingast is the Ward C. Krebs Family Professor in the Department of Political Science and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1977. Prior to teaching at Stanford, Professor Weingast spent ten years at Washington University in St. Louis in the Department of Economics and the School of Business. The recipient of the Riker Prize, the Heinz Eulau Prize, and the James Barr Memorial Prize, among others, he has also worked extensively with development agencies such as the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Professor Weingast coauthored Analytical Narratives (1998) and coedited The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy (2006). His research focuses on the political foundations of markets, economic reform, and regulation, including problems of political economy of development, federalism and decentralization, and legal institutions.


Reviews of the hardback: 'With bravado, abandon, and great learning, North, Wallis, and Weingast have produced an excellent read - a book that is intriguing, entertaining, irritating, and provocative. Violence and Social Orders is an important book that deserves a wide readership. Its concepts will shape academic discourse and its arguments in the fields of economic history and development studies.' Robert Bates, Journal of Economic Literature
'If anyone is iconic in the economic history world Doug North certainly qualifies ... This time, North is joined by two prominent and strong-minded co-authors, John Wallis and Barry Weingast. Their collaboration has been fruitful ... Above all, the notion that one cannot simply 'get rid' of the superficial exterior of natural states and thereby uncover the beating heart of an open access order yearning to be free is the book's most important idea, and profound.' Robert Margo, EH.Net
'A demanding but rewarding work, with intriguing echoes of Marx ... Highly recommended.' Choice
'While there is still much more work to be done in understanding how to get from here to there, the authors' insights regarding the control of violence in natural, limited access societies versus modern, open-access societies are nonetheless major contributions ... North, Wallis, and Weingast's analysis of violence and its suppression provides a simple, straightforward path to understanding both authoritarianism and transitional violence.' D. Roderick Kiewiet, Journal of Economic History
'... an immodestly titled and immoderately stimulating book ...' Jonathan Rauch, The National Journal
'... strong, persuasive ... Anyone interested in development, economic history, the analysis of institutions or the idea of a generalized social science would do well to read this book ... what is new in the book is the way its authors have connected, systematized and synthesized these previously disparate ideas to produce the limited-/open-access framework with which they propose to interpret human history. Their framework proves strikingly effective at this task ... the new social science paradigm it presents is compelling and worthy of wide attention.' Mark Holden, International Affairs
'This much-anticipated, pioneering, sweeping millennial history explains how the evolution of impersonal and standardized treatment, a rule of law for elites, perpetual forms of organization, and consolidated political control of the military combined to produce the 'open access' logic of rent erosion and economic growth often observed in the modern world. Emphatically multi-causal in approach, the book will persuade all those who want to analyze the complex interactions of beliefs, institutions, and organizations that they have to deal with its arguments.' James Alt, Harvard University
'Why do we obey laws, adhere to rules, and conform to norms? Doug North, John Wallis, and Barry Weingast offer a simple, powerful, and compelling answer - disorder and the violence it entails. This book is must-reading for anyone serious about the origins of social order and the reasons for its disintegration.' Stephen Ansolabehere, Harvard University
'A masterful and revealing interpretation of how 'nasty, brutish, and short' became healthy, wealthy, and peaceful and why the transformation occurred in some nations but not in others.' Claudia Goldin, Harvard University
'Violence and Social Orders is a thought-provoking, pioneering, and ambitious study. It should be read by anyone interested in the institutional underpinning of development.' Avner Greif, Stanford University
'This book presents a powerful new theory of the interaction between law, politics, and the structure of power. It is sure to be influential for decades to come.' Daniel Klerman, University of Southern California
'Why are poor countries poor and rich countries rich? North, Wallis, and Weingast explain why - it's the politics stupid! A compelling book for anyone who wants to understand the world.' James A. Robinson, Harvard University
'A demanding but rewarding work, with intriguing echoes of Marx ... Highly recommended.' Choice

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