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uncertainty and culture

Carsten Herrmann-Pillath
Wed, 2010-02-10
Ìn the past decades, economists have rediscovered culture. Yet, they do not build on earlier traditions, such as the old American institutionalism or German sociologists such as Weber and Sombart. The contemporary economic concept of culture is lacking a clear theoretical foundation, especially with relation to the humanities. Very often, it argues crudely reductionist because of the need to make culture compatibel with econometric methodology. I propose that a reconsideration of culture in economics has to start out from culture as a mechanism for reducing uncertainty, following North. This conception can also be reconciled with recent biological approaches to culture. Further, culture serves to stabilize individual identities in social interactions. An important conclusion from this is that single cultural traits rarely have a function or have adaptative value, but culture as a whole has a function.