Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1999

Institutions and Economic Activity:
Theory, History and International Comparisons

Main Discipline: Economics, Sociology, Human Geography
Lecturer: Professor Robert Boyer
Institution: Ecole des Hautes Études En Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and CEPREMAP, Paris, France
Dates: 2nd - 6th August 1999

The aim of this course is to give an outline of an institutionalist research program in economics - known as "régulation" theory - and to show its potentials in the study of long term and recent economic developments. This program is interdisciplinary: understanding of institutions requires a combination of approaches from many disciplines (political science, law, sociology, history). The study of institutions is presented as a novel way of overcoming the so-called micro/macro gap. The institutional architecture may have a significant impact upon the incentives and constraints transmitted to organizations and individuals. Over two centuries, institutional forms have been significantly altered and have framed a series of growth regimes.

The course will in particular focus on the exceptional growth phase between 1945-73, which will be analysed with reference to the maturation of a "Fordist" growth regime. But the very success of one institutional architecture triggers adverse trends, due to innovations or to opportunistic behavior by individual actors. The course looks at developments since the mid-1970s in this perspective, discusses alternative emerging institutional configurations and growth regimes, critisizing globalization diagnoses with reference to path dependency, complementary of institutional forms and the impact of political processes.

Special attention is paid to comparisons of recent European developments and problems. The cases of Japan and the U.S. are included in order to put overall European developments into a broader comparative perspective. Recent developments, such as the Economic and Monetary Union in the EU, and the economic meltdown in South-East Asia, will be taken into account.

Basic Readings

The lecturer
Robert Boyer is Professor of Economics at École des Hautes Études en Science Sociales and a researcher at Centre d`Études Prospectives d`Economie Mathematique Appliquées á la Planification (CEPREMAP), in Paris, France. He is one of the founders of the French institutionalist regulation school, and has published numerous books and articles on topics in institutional economics. Among his books in English are The Search for Labour Market Flexibility. The European Economies in Transition, (Oxford 1988), The Regulation School: A Critical Introduction, New York 1990, (edited with D. Drache) States Against Markets, (London 1996), (with J.P. Durand) After Fordism, (London 1997), (edited with J. Rodgers Hollingsworth) Contemporary Capitalism. The Embeddedness of Institutions, Cambridge 1997, (edited with E. Charron, U. Jürgens, S. Tolliday) Between Imitation and Innovation, (Oxford 1998).