Malcolm Rutherford

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Malcolm Rutherford (born 1948) is a Canadian economist, and Emeritus Professor of Economics Department of Economics, University of Victoria Victoria, known for his work on institutional economics and new institutional economics.


Institutions in economics: the old and the new institutionalism, 1996[edit]

Malcolm Rutherford, Institutions in economics: the old and the new institutionalism. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

  • This book examines and compares the two major traditions of thought that have attempted to incorporate institutions within economics. These are the "Old" (or American) Institutionalist tradition of Veblen, Mitchell, Commons and Ayres, and the "New" Institutionalism that has developed more recently from neoclassical and Austrian sources. The discussion is organized around a set of key problems involving the use of formal or nonformal analytical methods, individualist or holistic approaches, the respective roles of rational choice and rule following behavior, the relative importance of spontaneous evolution and deliberative design of institutions, and questions relating to the normative appraisal of institutions.
    • Book abstract
  • This book is a product of my long-standing interest in questions relating to institutions and their relation in economic life. Initially, this interest took me to the study of the American institutionalist tradition (now often called the "old" institutional economics, or OIE) and to a series of articles on Veblen, Mitchell, Commons and Ayres (Rutherford 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987), a line of work I have continued to pursue (1990a, 1990c, 1992a, 1992b). These pieces are written from the point of view of a sympathetic critic.
    • p. ix; Preface
  • Many writers within the NIE have argued for the efficiency of market and spontaneous processes very broadly, utilizing only weak arguments by analogy. A closer analysis of invisible- hand, common law, and even competitive market processes reveals that there are no guarantees that the inefficient will be eliminated in favour of the efficient or socially beneficial. This may occur, but whether or not it does will depend on the specifics of the case.
    • p. 172
  • The old and the new differ in many respects... The dispute centers on five main issues:
i. The role of formal theoretical modelling as opposed to less formal methods, including historical and ‘literary’ approaches.
ii. The emphasis to be placed on individual behaviour leading to social institutions as opposed to the effect of social institutions in moulding individual behaviour.
iii. The validity of rationalist explanations as opposed to those that place limits on the applicability of rationalist conceptions.
iv. The extent to which institutions are the result of spontaneous or invisible-hand processes as opposed to deliberate design.
v. The basis on which normative judgements can be made, and the appropriate role of government intervention in the economy.
  • p. 174

The Institutionalist Movement in American Economics, 1918–1947, 2011[edit]

Malcolm Rutherford (2011). The Institutionalist Movement in American Economics, 1918–1947 : Science and Social Control, Cambridge University Press.

  • This book provides a detailed picture of the institutionalist movement in American economics concentrating on the period between the two World Wars. The discussion brings a new emphasis on the leading role of Walton Hamilton in the formation of Institutional economics, on the special importance of the ideals of “science” and “social control” embodied within the movement, on the large and close network of individuals involved, on the educational programs and research organizations created by institutionalists, and on the significant place of the movement within the mainstream of interwar American economics.
    • Book abstract

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