Access orders and the ‘new’ new institutional economics of development

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This article examines the Access Order theories of development that have emerged as the latest reformulation of New Institutional Economics by Douglass North and his associates. These scholars claim that Access Order theory represents a radical break from previous models of institutional change in developing countries. They argue that at the heart of development is the problem of controlling organized violence. Two distinct social orders, the Limited Access Order and the Open Access Order, have emerged as solutions to the problem of endemic violence. This article traces the evolution of these new ideas within North's institutional theory and examines how violence is treated within the new framework. The article evaluates the underlying economic model on which the theory is based and argues that the conceptual device of the Open Access Order preserves key features of the neoclassical approach within North's work. The article contrasts the Access Order approach with the political settlements framework. To conclude, the article argues that the Access Order approach serves to strip the progressive potential out of development by ignoring how controlling violence may affect human capabilities, rights and freedom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-75
Number of pages25
JournalDevelopment and change
Issue number1
Early online date19 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2016


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