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Claude Ménard and Mary M. Shirley
When New Institutional Economics (NIE) first appeared on the scholarly scene in the early 1970s, it was a transformative movement. NIE aimed to radically alter orthodox economics by showing that institutions are multidimensional and matter in significant ways that can be statistically measured and systematically modeled. In the decades since, thousands of articles and books have pursued this premise and NIE has evolved from an upstart movement to a major influence on researchers in economics, political science, law, management, and sociology. What made New Institutional Economics a radical idea was that it abandoned: [. . .]the standard neoclassical assumptions that individuals have perfect information and unbounded rationality and that transactions are costless and instantaneous. NIE assumes instead that individuals have incomplete information and limited mental capacity and because of this they face uncertainty about unforeseen events and outcomes and incur transaction costs to acquire information. To reduce risk and transaction costs humans create institutions, writing and enforcing constitutions, laws, contracts and regulations – so-called formal institutions – and structuring and inculcating norms of conduct, beliefs and habits of thought and behavior – or informal institutions. (Menard and Shirley, 2005, p. 1)
Ulf Bernitz, Moa Mårtensson, Lars Oxelheim and Thomas Persson
The introductory chapter provides an overview of the great social challenge that the EU currently faces. The editors raise the question of what can be done to bridge the prosperity gap in Europe. First, they briefly describe the background: the social dimension of European cooperation and its historical development. Second, they identify the new social challenges that the Union faces in the wake of the Great Recession, the ongoing refugee crisis, and the Brexit referendum. Third, an analytical point of departure for examining these challenges is presented, consisting of an interdisciplinary approach that pinpoints a number of overarching problems and possibilities associated with the social dimension of European integration. Fourth and finally, the book’s chapters are introduced, and their key policy recommendations are summarized. The chapter concludes with the argument that much of the EU’s future relevance and ability to stay together depends on its capacity to counteract the prosperity gap and reverse the negative trend that emerged during the crisis.