Marianna Belloc, Samuel Bowles

Paper #: 13-01-002

Our theory of cultural-institutional persistence and innovation is based on uncoordinated updating of individual social norms and contracts, so that both culture and institutions co-evolve. We explain why Pareto-dominated cultural-institutional configurations may persist over long periods and how transitions nonetheless occur. Unlike models in which elites impose inferior institutions or cultures as a self-interested distributional strategy, in our model, the exercise of elite power plays no role in either persistence or innovation, and transitions occur endogenously. We show that persistence will be the greater the more inferior is the Pareto-dominated configuration and the more rational and individualistic is the population.