Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Under the Thumb of History? Political Institutions and the Scope for Action

Author(s): Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Publication Date: June 2014

Keyword(s): determinism and political economy

Programme Area(s): Development Economics

Abstract: This paper discusses the two leading views of history and political institutions. For some scholars, institutions are mainly products of historical logic, while for others, accidents, leaders, and decisions have a significant impact. We argue that while there is clear evidence that history matters and has long-term effects, there is not enough data to help us distinguish between the two views. Faced with this uncertainty, what is a social scientist to do? We argue that given the possibility that policy decisions indeed make a difference, it makes sense to assume they do and to try to improve policymaking.

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Bibliographic Reference

Banerjee, A and Duflo, E. 2014. 'Under the Thumb of History? Political Institutions and the Scope for Action'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.