December, 2004

A Nomos Model of Social Change

How Beliefs Affect Institutions and Vice Versa
  • Anthony Evans

    Assistant Professor of Economics, ESCP-EAP European School of Management
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The economic literature exploring institutions is deep but unfulfilling. In this working paper, Anthony Evans explores the claim that belief systems affect institutions, and vice versa. To understand a theory of society, and societal change, therefore, economists need to complement the existing literature on institutions with a new theory of economic culture. FA Hayek stressed the distinction between law, (Nomos) and legislation, (thesis). It is Evans' contention that most institutional analysis, especially in the domain of development, concentrates on change that is caused by legislation. Here, Evans tries to balance the debate by speculating on an approach that incorporates natural law, customs, traditions, and belief systems--a Nomos theory of social change. Since past attempts to explore the field of culture have suffered due to their inability to convert interesting, intuitive supposition into a robust model, Evans will try to create a means to categorize and compare different belief systems, and suggest how these will evolve into institutions. This model will be intuitive, useful, and tractable.