Markets, the Social Contract, and the ‘Smithian Result’

  • Matthijs Krul
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Economic Thought book series (PHET)


The purpose of this chapter is to explain the role of the market in Douglass North’s thought. As Krul shows, while North was not a straightforward free market theorist, he nonetheless idealized a certain view of the market and used it as a benchmark for analyzing all historical societies. While also discussing earlier criticisms of North’s approach, Krul points to the importance of social contract theory and a pessimistic outlook on social cooperation as sources for North’s idealization of markets. An important part of the discussion is the role of Adam Smith, who functions for North as proof of both the virtues of well-ordered markets and of the difficulties of achieving them.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthijs Krul
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Social AnthropologyBerlinGermany

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