New Book on American Institutionalism
| Peter Klein |
It’s by Malcolm Rutherford, titled The Institutionalist Movement in American Economics, 1918-1947: Science and Social Control (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Rutherford reinterpretes the American (or “Old”) Institutional Economics as a much broader and deeper movement than simply the ideas of Veblen, Commons, and Mitchell. Reviewers Robert Van Horn and Richard McIntyre say that “institutional economics should be understood as a ‘movement’ that shared core ideas and beliefs and as a network of people with a self-conscious unity, and Rutherford marvelously shows how the self-conscious unity of this network shaped institutionalist economics and American economics more generally in the first half of the twentieth century.” The reviewers also praise Rutherford for debunking three important “myths” about the Old Institutionalists:
First, he challenges the notion that institutional economics was only a critique of neoclassical economics and that institutional economics disappeared because it did not make any substantial contributions to economics. Second, Rutherford successfully assails the idea that institutional economics was just a set of facts and bereft of theory. Third, Rutherford dispels the notion that institutional economics was Veblenian; he shows that Veblen was an intellectual inspiration to the movement but not central to the networking process.
My previous forays into the writings of the Old Institutionalists have not yielded much fruit, but I will look at Rutherford’s book and try to keep an open mind.