The Problems Of Establishing A Standardised Methodology

2234 words - 9 pages

When examining studies of economic performance, often trade and political influence is a key explanatory factor. If trade makes countries wealthy, then it is important to examine the roots of how goods for trade were produced from natural resources. Fernand Braudel brought the geographical survey as a methodological development in his acclaimed work, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. Essentially, a historian will begin a study by examining the geographical nature of the examples in order to gauge the resources available for economic development, or ensure natural resources play a key role in the understanding of how some countries were able to outperform others. Pomeranz focuses heavily on the natural resources of his examples, justly too as his aforementioned targeted comparisons meant he had to be careful to really ensure his examples were balanced. The natural resource that he pays the most attention to is coal, which Pomeranz believed gave Britain an edge in the industrial revolution. He especially focuses on the difference between Chinese and British coal availability, noting that there was very little coal in the Lower Yangzi. He maintains that the geographical location of the coal in China was a hindrance to growth as the northwest was a technologically backwards region, and coal mines in the area suffered from spontaneous combustion. Evidently Pomeranz’s political survey is crucial to understanding how China fell behind Britain when the latter diverged.
Institution studies are strongest in examining political influence on economic development. Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations first articulated a ‘political survey’ approach by outlining the political economy theory, especially that of the “system of commerce”. His discussion of the management of the mercantile system as a method of fiscal accumulation lends itself to the political management of institutions that controlled trade in the medieval period. Thus, institutional studies’ use of political economic control factors, such as the ‘rules of the game’ concept – that individual agents (merchants) were prevented from cheating the trade system by state or guild-imposed repercussions – dominate institution-based studies of economic performance. Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy sets out to establish an understanding of how Western Europe rose to dominance through the eyes of an economist. His application of Game Theory on market performance is used to demonstrate differing institutional management in different economies. For example, Greif highlights the importance of the podesteria system as an institution that “represented a limited form of government”, ultimately preventing agents from cheating the system. Yet he demonstrates that the podesteria behaved differently in Venice and Genoa, the former representing a power balance, and the latter an oligarchic domination. His decision to...

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