Enacting Dismal Science

Part of the series Perspectives from Social Economics pp 53-86


Performative Mechanisms

  • Carsten Herrmann-PillathAffiliated withWitten/Herdecke University


Performativity is grounded in a particular kind of social mechanisms that involve semiotic causation. I combine three different literatures: on performativity, on constitutive explanations in the social sciences, and on Peircian semiotics into a conceptual and methodological framework that can deal with the ubiquitous phenomena of contextualization and framing in experimental and behavioural economics. In the semiotic model, incentivesal ways operate via two channels of causation, the efficient-causal one and the semiotic one, with the latter operating via the cognitive system. For example, in social preferences, incentives efficient-causally impact on neuronal mechanisms that generate actions and on the cognitive processing of in-group/out-group boundaries. I present the example of corporate governance and managerial incentive systems as a case in point, arguing that these are performative mechanisms, as reflected in observations of historical and cultural embeddedness. This results in the impossibility of formulating universal regularities along the lines of the ‘legal origin’ literature.