Social orders, Institutions and Long-Term Economic Development - 2 ECTS

In this Interdisciplinary Window (IW) PhD students will engage in-depth with the cutting-edge literature on the role of violence, social orders and institutions in long-term economic development led by Nobel-laureate Douglas North (1920-2015). Together with Barry Weingast and John Wallis (top scholars in the field of political economy and economic history), North published the extremely influential book “Violence and Social Orders. A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History” (2009), which will be the core reading of this IW.

This book is dense, complex and extremely challenging, but it is ‘a must read’ for students in social sciences working on topics such as growth, governance and social structure. Students will read the book thoroughly and discuss the various theories and key concepts with respect to 1) long-term paths of economic growth and historical escapes from poverty; 2) the political economy of institutional rigidity and change ; 3) the nature of social orders and the role of violence in the historical evolution of societies and 4) the transition that societies can make from limited access orders (LAOs) to open access orders (OAOs).

This IW is particularly relevant for students who want to understand the deeper historical relations between political, economic and social development. The book will be read and discussed in a number of group meetings with professors Frankema and Bulte. Students are examined on the basis of a short essay in which they apply (part of) the NWW framework.

Organised by Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

Fri 23 February 2018 until Fri 16 March 2018

Duration Registration deadline: Friday 9 February 2018
Venue Leeuwenborch, gebouwnummer 201

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

1.       Apply the concepts and theories designed by North et al.

2.       Understand how historical developments are key for the functioning of present-day societies.

3.       Explain why some societies remain stuck in a ‘perverse’ institutional equilibrium, including endemic outbreaks of violence, while other societies have overcome warfare and used in a transition towards a different political and economic equilibrium.

4.       Situate the relationship between violence and social orders in a broader literature of (neo)-institutional economics, economic history and comparative politics.


In-depth reading, group discussions and debate, essay writing.


A final short essay.


Session 1 2018-02-23 13:30 - 15:15
Session 2 2018-03-02 13:30 - 15:15
Session 3 2018-03-09 13:30 - 15:15
Session 4 2018-03-16 13:30 - 15:15

Target group and min/max number of participants:

All MSc and PhD students with a genuine interest are welcome. 

Assumed prior knowledge:

Some affinity with economic and/or political theory is recommended.


The sessions will be held in building “De Leeuwenborch”, Hollandseweg 1 in Wageningen, The Netherlands. The exact rooms will be announced later.

Course fees

WASS, PE&RC and WIMEK/SENSE PhDs with TSP € 220
a) All other PhD candidates b) Postdocs and staff of the above mentioned Graduate Schools € 450
All others € 700

NB: for some courses, PhD candidates from other WUR graduate schools with a TSP are also entitled to a reduced fee. Please consult your Education/PhD Programme Coordinator for more information


D.C. North, J. Wallis and B.R. Weingast (2009) Violence and Social Order. A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History.

Participants should make sure they have this book before the course starts (the book is not included in participation fee).

Cancellation conditions:

Participants can cancel their registration free of charge 1 month before the course starts. A cancellation fee of 100% applies if a participant cancels his/her registration less than 1 month prior to the start of the course.

The organisers have the right to cancel the course no later than one month before the planned course start date in the case that the number of registrations does not reach the minimum.

The participants will be notified of any changes at their e-mail addresses.