The Origins and Persistence of Discriminatory Institutions and Ideologies

Originally published in SSRN

Robert Higgs’ work has great significance for understanding the role of state power in the economic and political oppression of social groups targeted for discrimination. In this chapter, I draw three themes from Higgs’ work that can be applied to better understand the nature, function, and persistence of discriminatory institutional environments. First, institutional environments are comprised of both publicly and privately organized rule schema. As such, understanding a discriminatory institutional environment requires understanding the interaction between public discriminatory law and private discriminatory social norms. Second, institutions are defined in part by the competitive landscape they exist within. Market competition and political competition are both critical to understanding the nature of discriminatory oppression and how it might abate or become further entrenched. Third, ideology plays an important role in shaping and maintaining racially discriminatory policies and practices, and cannot be set to the side for the sake of simplifying analysis. The chapter concludes with potential directions for future scholarship.

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