RHI-54302 Social Orders, Institutions and Long Term Economic Development


Credits 2.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work8
Independent study40
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. EHP Frankema
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. EHP Frankema
prof. dr. EH Bulte
Examiner(s)prof. dr. EHP Frankema
BSC GJ Bulten

Language of instruction:



This course is part of the Wageningen School of Social Sciences Graduate programme in the MSc programmes MME, MID, MDR and MCH. You can register for the course via the registration form on the WASS website, www.wur.eu/wass. For more information, please contact WASS via wass@wur.nl (practical information) or the course coordinator (course content).

In this Interdisciplinary Window PhD students will engage in-depth with the cutting-edge literature on the role of violence, social orders and institutions in long-term economic development led by Nobel-laureate Douglas North (1920-2015). Together with Barry Weingast and John Wallis (top scholars in the field of political economy and economic history), North published the extremely influential book 'Violence and Social Orders. A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History' (2009), which will be the core reading of this Interdisciplinary Window.
This book is dense, complex and extremely challenging, but it is 'a must read' for students in social sciences working on topics such as growth, governance and social structure. Students will read the book thoroughly and discuss the various theories and key concepts with respect to 1) long-term paths of economic growth and historical escapes from poverty; 2) the political economy of institutional rigidity and change ; 3) the nature of social orders and the role of violence in the historical evolution of societies and 4) the transition that societies can make from limited access orders (LAOs) to open access orders (OAOs). This IW is particularly relevant for students who want to understand the deeper historical relations between political, economic and social development. The book will be read and discussed in a number of group meetings with professors Frankema and Bulte. Students are examined on the basis of a short essay in which they apply (part of) the NWW framework

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- apply the concepts and theories designed by North et al;
- understand how historical developments are key for the functioning of present-day societies;
- explain why some societies remain stuck in a 'perverse' institutional equilibrium, including endemic outbreaks of violence, while other societies have overcome warfare and used in a transition towards a different political and economic equilibrium;
- situate the relationship between violence and social orders in a broader literature of (neo)-institutional economics, economic history and comparative politics.


In-depth reading, group discussions and debate, essay writing.


D.C. North, J. Wallis and B.R. Weingast (2009) Violence and Social Order. A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History.