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The Poverty of ClioResurrecting Economic History$
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Francesco Boldizzoni

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691144009

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691144009.001.0001

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Economics With a Human Face?

Economics With a Human Face?

(p.18) Chapter 2 Economics With a Human Face?
The Poverty of Clio

Francesco Boldizzoni

Princeton University Press

The major misunderstanding about cliometrics comes from the subsequent spread of Douglass North's new institutional approach. North claims to have challenged traditional economic theory, which he found inadequate. This chapter shows how this approach, besides being patently unhistorical, rests on flimsy foundations. In order to do so, it draws on a variety of evidence from the social and historical sciences. It also compares North's synthesis with the example of social science history offered by Moses Finley, the eminent ancient economic historian. Finley made a powerful argument against the application of modern economic theory to the past. Furthermore, he developed an alternative interpretation for the origin of institutions, rigorously demonstrating the logical precedence of society over the economy. The chapter begins by considering the criticism that Karl Polanyi made against neoclassical economics in the mid-twentieth century. In fact, both North's and Finley's works can be read as a response to Polanyi.

Keywords:   Douglass North, institutional approach, social science history, Moses Finley, economic theory, cliometrics, economic history, Karl Polanyi, neoclassical economics

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