Institutions, Markets and Economic Evolution - Conceptual Basis for a Naturalist Institutionalism

  • Jorge Bateira

Student thesis: Phd


The University of ManchesterJorge Manuel de Meneses BateiraDoctor of Philosophy (PhD), 2010Institutions, Markets and Economic Evolution - Conceptual Basis for a Naturalist InstitutionalismWe might wonder, after two centuries of economic science and thousands of articles and books written by economists, if something new can still be said about 'markets'. Today, what new contribution could still be given to a so fundamental concept in economics? This thesis builds on the main legacy of Veblen, Polanyi and Hayek's Institutionalism: the distinction between the 'interactional' level of human sociality and the 'structural' level of society that Veblen named 'institutions'. The three authors tentatively formulated an original idea: the two levels of sociocultural reality are interdependent and mutually constitutive. This is a proto-emergentist ontology of institutions that makes the starting point of the thesis. Convergent results of different disciplines are explored in order to develop such ontology. It is argued that sociocultural systems have properties that make them specific, namely the human capacity to interact in multiple scales of time-space using human language. Sociocultural research cannot be guided by conceptual schemes abstracted from other levels of Nature. This is the bedrock of a Naturalist Institutionalism. To understand institutions we need to discuss meanings and culture; we need to enter the semiotic of Peirce, the founder of Pragmatism. The foregoing implies the distinction of three types of inter-dependent processes in sociocultural systems: the cultural ('norms'); the social (networks, organisations); the material reality. This analytical move enables a redefinition of 'institution': a sociocultural system emergent from inter-related organisations, networks, norms and material reality, which structure individuals and organisations and serves a societal function. In this sense, the 'economy' is a macro-institution and markets are sub-systems of the 'economy', meso-institutions. Thus, a market is a self-organizing, complex, and open system endowed with structural levels emergent from persons' interactions-communications participating in the transformation processes of production, distribution, appropriation and consumption, using matter-energy and symbolic tools. Finally, it is argued that the evolutionary process of markets has a specific sociocultural nature that goes by the name of 'history'. Their motion is discussed with recourse to a model that highlights the interactions of markets with science, state and culture to solve problems of uncertainty and coordination in the processes of competition, cooperation and valuation.
Date of Award1 Aug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJohn Metcalfe (Supervisor) & Ronald Ramlogan (Supervisor)


  • institutions, markets, institutional economics

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