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Reflections about the Book by A. S. Skorobogatov “Society as a Contract Between the Strong and Week. Essays on Economics of History” (M.: HSE Publishing House, 2018)

Reflections about the Book by A. S. Skorobogatov “Society as a Contract Between the Strong and Week. Essays on Economics of History” (M.: HSE Publishing House, 2018)

Journal of Institutional Studies, , Vol. 10 (no. 3),

The paper is an extended review of the book “Society as a contract between the strong and weak. Essays on economics of history” by A. S. Skorobogatov. This monograph is an attempt to construct the general economic theory of the social-and-economic history, and it is almost unique for the Russian economic literature. According to A. S. Skorobogatov, one of the most important characteristics of the pre-industrial societies is an uneven distribution of the power possibilities among individuals and their groups. This phenomenon is concerned with “territorial aspects”. Such aspects include geo-economic, geopolitical, “geocultural” and demographic factors. Those groups of people who possess more power possibilities exploit the others, and purely economic activity is “the destiny of the weak”. But, inasmuch as any society is a contract between the strong and weak, the latter also received gains from its emergence. According to A. S. Skorobogatov, the main precondition for the transition to industrial society and rapid economic growth is concerned with strengthening of a link between the economy and the power possibilities due to the progress of military technologies. The critique offered in the paper focuses on the two directions. The first one is that the author of the book follows the standard Neoclassical treatment of rationality. This treatment, on the one hand, is hardly necessary for receiving main results of his investigation, and, on the other hand, not argued in detail. In particular, rationality can be treated not as the universal feature of the human behavior, but as the product of social norms and institution. Typical person lived in the preindustrial era, was characterized by an absence of propensities to calculate and to make optimal choice. It is consistent with self-interested behavior. The second direction of the critique is that the author of the book pays insufficient attention to “the hockey stick of the economic growth” and divergence in the process of growth. The paper contains – absent in the book – arguments explaining why some countries grow faster than other countries. In particular, we list factors both encouraging and obstructing innovative activities in the capitalist and socialist systems.


Keywords: economics of history; rationality; growth; power possibilities; institutions

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