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October 03, 2007



Sounds like Toynbee with a bit of economism added in.

Aqdas Afzal (Pakistan)

Dani --

What is not clear from your post is whether North et al. think there is a continuum between the Natural State and the Open-Access Order? I would like to express some reservations about this work assuming the authors posit the presence of acontinuum (the very name "natural state" implies there is a continuum).

There is nothing new about this theory. Actually, this theory sounds a bit like the Modernization Theory (MT) of yesteryears. Remember, MT posited that with the increase in communication, rural-urban migration etc. all socities would eventually end up being identical to Western-style liberal democracies -- the MT was teleological. Alas, it wasn't to be!

However, I do agree with North et. al when they argue that the present academic research goes astry when it tries to fit all cases to the available theoretical construct.

One instance of this is the complete inability of Western Social Science in explaining the incidence of Suicide Bombing. If we are to assume -- what most theories now assume, especially with the ascendence of Rational Choice Theory (RCT)in Social Science --the presence of homo economicus then Suicide Bombing is not explained, at all. Why would I want to decrease my overall utility (by killing myself) for a miniscual dent in my enemy's utility?

Similarly, the presence of altrusitic behavior, the practice of donating organs and so forth is not easily explained by RCT.

Similarly, where some things can be explained by the RCT, they are often judged differently. Western theories place way too much importance on the "substantive" importance of democracy for the citizens of a country. They seem to forget that sustinance is the most important concern for the vast majority of individuals.

Why is it, for instance, that Indian Hindus, coming from the biggest democracy in the world, would pay a large sum of money to go to the Arab Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia: a country where Indian Hindus have no political or religious freedom?


If institutions are relative to the societies in which they function then rational choice would also be relative to the society in which it functions.

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