John Wallis
University of Maryland



(Monday, 18th May 2009)

Title : Violence and Social Orders

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The problem of social order is often approached as a problem of credible commitment between a protector, i.e. the state, and a group of citizens. What happens to this analysis when we consider that the protectors are always a group, never an individual, and ask how the organization of violence within the coalition of protectors affects how societies work? The answers give us a new perspective on the problems of economic development and suggest a new way to think about how modern societies emerged two hundred years ago.

Bibliographical references :

Douglass North, John Wallis, and Barry Weingast, Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. Cambridge University Press, 2009.

North, Wallis, and Weingast, “Violence and the Rise of Open-Access Orders.” Journal of Democracy, 20(1), January 2009, pp. 55-68.

North, Wallis, Webb, and Weingast. “Limited Access Orders: Rethinking the Problems of Development and Violence.” Manuscript, 2009.

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(Wednesday, 20th May 2015)

Title : Governments, Rules, and Organizations

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I will talk about how societies coordinate through rules. Governments are usually defined as organizations with a comparative advantage in violence (North, 1981). Government rules are critical because they can be coercively enforced. But we know that in many societies governments do not possess a comparative in violence. How do we think about governments then? I present an alternative concept of government: government as the organization that publicly signifies agreements. Governments are organizations that coordinate, rather than coerce. Rules then are based on the value of coordination, not the threat of coercion.