Discussion Questions on Geoffrey Hodgson, "What Is the Essence of Institutional Economics?"

Note: Hodgson speaks of "old" and "new" institutionalism, without explaining what he means. In his view (not stated in this essay) new institutionalism attempts to use neoclassical tools and assumptions to develop theories of institutional development and change and of the ways in which institutions may affect individual choice and welfare. He is not concerned to define or defend new institutionalism. The institutionalism he is concerned to define (and praise) is old, not new institutionalism.

1. What is the essence of (old) institutional economics?

2. What is an institution?

3. Does mainstream economics deny that institutions are important?

4. Hodgson maintains that (old) institutionalism rejects the idea of "the given individual." What is "the given individual" and what is misleading or mistaken in the idea of the given individual?

5. What is "reconstitutive downward causation"?

6. Are (old) institutional and mainstream economics competitors or might they be complementary?