STOREPgrants 2019, winning recipients

In July 2016, STOREP – Associazione Italiana per la Storia dell’Economia Politica – has launched two grants (2,000 EUR each, funded from the budget), called “STOREPgrants”, for innovative small-scale research projects by STOREP members in the history of political economy, the history of economic thought, and the history of economics, or exploring economic issues on an interdisciplinary basis, or, finally, explicitly promoting heterodox approaches to economic

The Selection Committee for STOREPgrants 2019, composed of three members nominated by the Executive Committee, has scrutinized submitted proposals on the bases of three main criteria: a) relevance and originality of the proposal; b) coherence with STOREP’s aims, and c) feasibility of the project, and possibilities of future developments.

The Committee-selected winning recipients of the two STOREPgrant awards (of 2,000 EUR each) are:

  1. Katia Caldari (Università di Padova) and Muriel Dal Pont Legrand (Université Nice Sophia Antipolis), “A Think-Tank in disguise? Role and influences of the French CGP
  2. Massimiliano Vatiero (Università di Trento e Università della Svizzera italiana), “An historical research on the meaning of transaction in transaction cost economics

Here are brief outlines of the researches:

Katia Caldari (Università di Padova) and Muriel Dal Pont Legrand (Université Nice Sophia Antipolis), “A Think-Tank in disguise? Role and influences of the French CGP

The French General Planning Commissariat (Commissariat Général au Plan, CGP) has been a fundamental tool for France reconstruction after WWII. Established by De Gaulle in 1946 and strongly pursued and fostered by Jean Monnet, this institution held the reins of French economic policy for several decades. From a means to ease the reconstruction of the country, starting from the early 50s it became the instrument to enhance France’s development, modernization and return among the Greats. However, role and influences of the CGP did not stop in France but involved the European integration process which was going on in that period. The CGP staff (Monnet, Hirsch, Massé, Marjolin, Uri and others) did have in fact a crucial part both in driving the economic policy inside the country and in affecting debates and choices at European level.
The year 1958 was a crucial date both for France, with the birth of the V Republic and its new political and economic path and for Europe with the implementation of the Common Market. But 1958 is also a turning point for the CGP which started to change its perspectives, tools and objectives and finally from the ‘60s it became expression of a totally different approach. The occurrence of these important changes went along with an important transformation also in economic theory with the rise and triumph of neo-liberalism, especially in the ordo-liberal version.
We aim to inquire into the role played by the CGP in driving choices of political economy, in influencing the political debates and in affecting (and expressing) the shifts in economic theory in France and at the European level. Notwithstanding the activity of the CGP is largely analysed for its results in terms of French growth and as possible alternative to the free market nevertheless, its influence on the French economic policy design, its possible role in spreading a certain international expertise as well as its influences in the European integration process are almost completely neglected by the literature. We do believe that it is worthwhile filling this gap and this is the main reason for this project.

Massimiliano Vatiero (Università di Trento e Università della Svizzera italiana), “An historical research on the meaning of transaction in transaction cost economics

Despite a voluminous literature on transaction costs, no comprehensive analysis exists regarding what the transaction is and how it works. One consequence of thislack of an explicit definition of the conception of transaction is that a theoretical consensus on what costs of a transaction (i.e. transaction costs) are is still out of sight (e.g. Williamson 1979, North 1990a) and often the literature provides conflicting descriptions of these transaction costs (cf. Calabresi 1968, Macneil 1978, Dahlman 1979, Williamson 1981, 1993, Demsetz 1993, Allen 2000). Even if the issues are clearly related, the research proposal is not on transaction costs, but on the notion of transaction. In particular, the project wants to provide an historical account of the concept of transaction in transaction cost economics literature.
The transaction is the basic unit of research and analysis of transaction cost economics; the project is on how literature of transaction cost economics depicts the functioning of a transaction. The main objective of the research is to show the three-dimensional nature of a transaction. The research starts from the idea of transaction as originally formulated by John Commons (1924), which Oliver Williamson has advocated as the basic unit of transaction cost economics, even though Williamson and other transaction cost economists have poorly applied (cf. Pagano and Vatiero 2015, Vatiero 2018). Accordingly, the transaction is shaped not only by the actions of two trans-actors (e.g. a seller and a buyer), but also by the actions expected by two potential transactors which are representative of seller’s competitors and buyer’s competitors, and by the power of a fifth actor, i.e., the rule-maker or rule-enforcer (cf. also Vatiero 2010, Fiorito and Vatiero 2011, Vatiero 2018). This conceptualisation of a transaction has an advantage in that it allows us to draw three different dimensions of the transaction: the legal dimension (i.e. the role of the rule-maker and/or rule-enforcer in a transaction), the political dimension (namely, each transactor is also a political actor) and the competitive dimension (i.e., the effects of one transactor’s choices on competitors and competition).
Explicating and developing the narrative of transaction as a three-dimensional construct, the project’s aims are:
1) to reconstruct institutional economics thought (especially, referring to contributions of Commons, Lee Hale, Coase, Olson, North, Hart and Williamson) as a comprehensive project centred on a unit of investigation — the transaction, and accordingly
2) to reconcile and connect different but related institutional and transaction costs approaches.
The red thread of the project is, historically speaking, the evolution of the meaning of transaction (its use and implications) in institutional economics literature.