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Behavioural rules: Veblen, Nelson-Winter, Oström and beyond

Blind, Georg (2015): Behavioural rules: Veblen, Nelson-Winter, Oström and beyond.

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Abstract

Rules as devices for the analysis of economic behaviour have earned increasing recognition since Elinor Ostrom’s work was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2009. This contribution illustrates the use of such analytical device in three foundational pioneering areas of application: The sociology of Thorstein Veblen, the organisational studies of Nelson and Winter, and Elinor Ostrom’s analysis of resource governance systems. A comparison of their respective uses of the analytical concept of behavioural rules reveals their major objective: the systematic interpretation of empirical observations. While their works provide convincing evidence on the analytical power of rules, neither has realised the full potential for generalisation toward a theory of rule-based economics. Such generalisation has recently been achieved by Dopfer and Potts. Adhering to ‘instrumental realism’ their theoretical framework integrates key elements of the reasoning about rules presented here, and achieves general applicability to the analysis of the origination and diffusion of rules, and of their use for economic operations.

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