PUBLISHED:June 06, 2014

Duke Law hosts 2014 conference of International Society for New Institutional Economics, June 19-21

More than 200 international scholars from a range of disciplines will convene at Duke Law School in late June for the 18th annual conference of the International Society for New Institutional Economics (ISNIE).

The conference, which begins June 19, will bring together economists, legal scholars, organizational theorists, political scientists, and other social scientists from 20 countries.  Over three days of panel discussions and keynote addresses, they will consider cutting-edge scholarship relating to how institutions and organizations evolve, how they operate, and how they may be optimally designed and supported. 

“A well-functioning society depends on well-functioning institutions,” said John de Figueiredo, the Edward and Ellen Marie Schwarzman Professor of Law and Professor of Strategy and Economics at the Fuqua School of Business, who is chairing the conference program committee as ISNIE president-elect. Institutions and organizations, such as corporations, legislatures, and courts, are key to insuring a society has properly operating markets, he added.  “Institutions affect market performance. For example, we need well-functioning courts to support market transactions. If there is not an independent arbiter of disputes that arise in the course of doing business, it will be difficult to enforce a contract. If you cannot enforce a contract, then contracts become less useful and markets have a harder time functioning well.”

ISNIE was formed in the mid-1990s, as an interdisciplinary enterprise to facilitate understanding of the institutions of social, political, and commercial life. Founded by Nobel prizewinning economist Ronald Coase and led in its early years by two other Nobel laureates, ISNIE and the scholarly discipline of new institutional economics evolved, de Figueiredo said, with the realization that a deeper understanding of institutions and organization is essential to a full understanding of economics.

“Previously, economics was primarily concerned with markets, whether they were labor markets or product markets,” he said. “Economics focused on the mathematical, empirical, and statistical details of the markets.” New institutional economics, as a field, emerged from the realization that the discussion of market operation and breakdown needed to be broader, delving into the details of how market transactions were supported, and incorporating the insights from other disciplines.  Fundamentally, he said. “Institutions and organizations matter.”

Two keynote addresses at the June conference reflect the scope of inquiry within the field. One will be given by Timur Kuran, Professor of Economics and Political Science and Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University, who studies how institutions affected the evolution of markets in Islamic countries, tracking them over hundreds of years. The other will be given by Robert Gibbons, the Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is one of the leaders in the study of organizational economics, using mathematical modeling in his research.

Scholars from across Duke University will participate in the conference. Duke Law Professors Matthew Adler, Mathew McCubbins, and Barak Richman serve on the program committee as does Professor Manuel Adelino from the Fuqua School of Business.

Duke Law School, the Fuqua School, the Department of Economics, the Department of Political Science, and the Social Science Research Institute all are co-sponsors of the conference.