A Theory of Cultural Revivals

By: Murat Iyigun (University of Colorado, Boulder); Jared Rubin (Chapman University); Avner Seror (Aix-Marseille Univ, CNRS, EHESS, Ecole Centrale, AMSE, Marseille, France)
Abstract: Why do some societies fail to adopt more efficient institutions? And why do such failures often coincide with cultural movements that glorify the past? We propose a model highlighting the interplay—or lack thereof—between institutional change and cultural beliefs. The main insight is that institutional change by itself will not lead to a more efficient economy unless culture evolves in tandem. This is because institutional change can be countered by changes in cultural values complementary to a more “traditional” economy. In our model, forward-looking elites, who benefit from a traditional, inefficient economy, may over-provide public goods that are complementary to the production of traditional goods. This encourages individuals to transmit cultural beliefs complementary to the provision of traditional goods. A horse race results between institutions, which evolve towards a more efficient (less traditional) economy, and cultural norms, which are pulled towards “tradition” by the elites. When culture wins the horse race, institutions respond by giving more political power to traditional elites—even if in doing so more efficient institutions are left behind. We call the interaction between these cultural and institutional dynamics a cultural revival.
Keywords: institutions, cultural beliefs, cultural transmission, institutional change
JEL: D02 N40 N70 O33 O38 O43 Z10
URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:aim:wpaimx:1931&r=ltv

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: