Social and Institutional Influences on Development

Part of the Studies in Economic and Social History book series (SESH)


Economic historians, following in the footsteps of orthodox economists, have a tendency to explain the performance of an economy in material terms. As we have seen in earlier sections of the present work, differences in the level of development between countries can be attributed to differences in factor endowments, which can in turn be traced back to such influences as differences over time in, say, rates of population increase or saving. But we have also mentioned the statistical evidence which will show that increases in output can only partly be accounted for by increases in the physical inputs of land, labour and capital. Once again, the large ‘residual’ hovers over our search for explanations. And as soon as we start to consider the quality of labour or the efficient allocation of resources, a personal or ‘human factor’ comes into play. To be more precise, there is the possibility that the entrepreneurial abilities of a population can be an influence on development. At this point, economists and historians alike face an intractable problem. Can one assume that where economic conditions are ripe for development, entrepreneurs (defined by Casson as those who specialize in taking judgemental decisions about the coordination of scarce resources) will always appear, given the basic human motivation to maximize one’s gains?


Free Trade Family Firm Institutional Influence Ancien Regime French Economy 
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Copyright information

© The Economic History Society 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NottinghamUK

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