Journal Article

Taking capitalism seriously: towards an institutionalist approach to contemporary political economy

Wolfgang Streeck

in Socio-Economic Review

Published on behalf of Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Volume 9, issue 1, pages 137-167
Published in print January 2011 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online November 2010 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwq028
Taking capitalism seriously: towards an institutionalist approach to contemporary political economy

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This paper outlines an institutionalist political economy approach to capitalism as a specific type of social order. Social science institutionalism considers social systems to be structured by sanctioned rules of obligatory behaviour. Its perspective is one of collective ordering, or governance, through regularization and normalization of social action, either by public authority or by private contract. Political economy looks at the interrelations between collective action in general, and collective rule-making in particular, and the economy; it extends from economic and social policy-making to the way in which economic interests and constraints influence policy, politics and social life as a whole. The approach proposed in this article looks at society and economy as densely intertwined and closely interdependent, which is exactly what traditional concepts of capitalism stood for. Proceeding from an institutionalist perspective, it elaborates a concept of capitalism not as a self-driven mechanism of surplus extraction and accumulation governed by objective laws, but as a set of interrelated social institutions, and as a historically specific system of structured as well as structuring social interaction within and in relation to an institutionalized social order.

Keywords: capitalism; political economy; institutions; institutional change; economic systems; social order; P1 capitalist systems; P16 political economy; B52 institutional approaches

Journal Article.  13088 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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