Research workshop explores social science of international development, March 24

Nobel Laureate Douglass North to discuss new book

Community-based conservation in Madagascar, property rights for the poor in Argentina and trade-offs between violence and power in societies throughout human history are among topics to be explored in a free public workshop on the social science of international development from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 24 in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge, Danforth Campus, Washington University in St. Louis.

Douglass North

The gathering will honor the lifelong intellectual contribution and legacy of Douglass C. North, Ph.D., the Spencer T. Olin Professor in Arts & Sciences and recipient of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. North also is the founder of the Center for New Institutional Social Sciences (CNISS).

The workshop is co-sponsored by CNISS, Arts & Sciences and the Democracy and Citizenship Initiative, a yearlong, University-wide effort to better understand American higher education’s relationship to the values and ambitions of a free society.

North and John Joseph Wallis, Ph.D., professor of economics at the University of Maryland, will open the workshop with a discussion of their forthcoming book, “Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History.

Co-authored by North, Wallis and Barry R. Weingast, Ph.D., of Stanford University, the book explores how societies through the ages have dealt with the problem of violence. In most societies, which the book describes as “natural states,” violence is limited by political manipulation of the economy to create privileged interests. These privileges limit the use of violence by powerful individuals, but doing so hinders both economic and political development.

In contrast, modern societies create open access to economic and political organizations, fostering political and economic competition. The book provides a framework for understanding the two types of social orders, why open-access societies are both politically and economically more developed, and how some 25 countries have made the transition between the two types.

In modern societies, we obey laws, adhere to rules and conform to norms, the book argues, because we fear disorder and the violence it entails. The book offers a “masterful and revealing interpretation of how ‘nasty, brutish, and short’ became healthy, wealthy, and peaceful and why the transformation occurred in some nations but not in others,” said Claudia Goldin, Ph.D., of Harvard University.

Other WUSTL faculty will address topics concerning democratization trends around the globe and ongoing research efforts in areas such as Madagascar and India, including:

• “How Do Violence and Social Orders Affect Democratization Trends Around the Globe?” by James Wertsch, Ph.D., the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences and director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy;

• “The University’s Role in International Development Policy” by Wayne Fields, Ph.D., the Lynne Cooper Harvey Distinguished Professor in English and American Culture Studies;

• “Community and Natural Resource Management: Modeling Complexity in Natural & Human System Interaction” by Gautam Yadama, Ph.D., associate professor and director of international programs at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, and Peter Hovmand, Ph.D., an assistant professor of social work at George Warren Brown and of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies in Arts & Sciences;

• “Community-based Conservation in Madagascar: Building a Foundation of Socio-Economic and Institutional Understanding of Malagasy Communities Through Action Research” by Margaret Brown, academic director at Duke University; Carolyn Lesorogol, Ph.D., assistant professor at George Warren Brown; and Kristen Wagner, Former CNISS Ph.D. Fellow and a doctoral candidate at George Warren Brown; and

• “Effects of Land Titling on the Poor” by Sebastian Galiani, Ph.D., professor of economics in Arts & Sciences.

For more information, including a presentation schedule, visit Reservations are requested by March 13 via e-mail at