Workshop on “Explaining Institutional Change in History”


Workshop on “Explaining Institutional Change in History”

Organizers : Mohamed Saleh, Peter Turchin


Why do institutions (laws, rules, sanctions, customs, and norms) in a given human society emerge, change, and disappear? Explaining institutional change has been a major theoretical and empirical challenge. A major obstacle facing explanations proposed by social scientists and historians is the peculiarities of the historical context. Historians tend to address this challenge by focusing on descriptions of what happened and emphasizing explanations that are contingent on the specific historical circumstances in which institutions evolve. Economists, other social scientists, and cultural evolutionists, on the other hand, tend to “generalize” and seek explanations that apply beyond the specific context of study. The tension between particular circumstances and general principles has not been resolved, with different scholars disagreeing as to the extent of permissible and empirically founded generalizations. Moreover, general principles in history are often as not as general as they may appear at first sight and are also bounded by the peculiarities of the data and the context.

Program [pdf  file]

Abstracts Talks [pdf file]

Day 1: June 13, 2017 (building S, MS001)

08:30 - 08:45 Welcome Coffee
08:45: Introduction
08:50-10:30: Session 1: Chair: Carlos Velasco Rivera (IAST)
Joel Mokyr (Northwestern): “Knowledge, Institutions and the Origins of the Great Enrichment”
Jose-Antonio Espin-Sanchez (Yale): “The Rain in Spain Stays mainly when you pray” (with Salvador Gil Guirado, Universidad de Murcia)
11:00-12:40: Session 2: Chair: Nicholas Crawford (IAST)
Ian Morris (Stanford): “The end of democracy”
Naomi Lamoreaux (Yale): “States, Not Nation: The Sources of Political and Economic Development in the Early United States” (with John Wallis, U of Maryland) (full text)
14:00-15:40: Session 3: Chair: Lucas Novaes (IAST)
James Fenske (Warwick): “Linguistic Distance and Market Integration in India” (with Namrata Kala) (full text)
Nick Crawford (IAST): “Slave Provisioning Laws and the Politics of Abolition in the British Empire”
16:10-17:00: Session 4: Chair: Vittorio Merola (IAST)
Joseph Henrich (Harvard): “The Coevolution of Psychology and Institutions”

Day 2: June 14, 2017 (building S, MS001)

08:30 - 08:50 Welcome Coffee
08:50-10:30: Session 5: Chair: Jonathan Stieglitz (IAST)
Thomas Currie (Exeter): “How Evolutionary Theory can inform the Study of Institutions”
Peter K. Bol (Harvard): “China in 750 and 1100 Compared”
11:00-12:40: Session 6: Chair: Kofi Asante (IAST)
Johannes Preiser-Kapeller (Austrian Academy of Sciences): “Toward that Great Byzantium… Where Nothing Changes. Institutional Dynamics in the Medieval Roman Empire and Beyond”
Mohamed Saleh (TSE and IAST): “Taxing Unwanted Populations: Fiscal Policy and Conversions in Early Islam” (with Jean Tirole, TSE and IAST)
14:00-15:40: Session 7: Chair: Michael Becher (IAST)
Yannay Spitzer (Hebrew U of Jerusalem): “Jewish Paradise: The Political Economy of the Jewish-Polish Symbiosis”
Peter Turchin (U of Connecticut): “The Zigs and Zags of Inequality in Human Evolutionary History”
16:10-17:00: Session 8: Moderator: Peter Turchin (U of Connecticut)
Roundtable: “Are there general principles explaining institutional change? If there are, what are their limitations? How do we test them?”
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