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The Clan and the City: Sustaining Cooperation in China and Europe

Aug 2012
Stanford King Center on Global Development Working Paper
By  Avner Greif, Guido Tabellini

Over the last millennium, the clan and the city have been the locus of cooperation in China and Europe respectively. This paper examines - analytically, historically, and empirically - the cultural, social, and institutional co-evolution that led to this bifurcation. We highlight that groups with which individuals identify are basic units of cooperation. Such groups impact institutional development because intra-group moral commitment reduces enforcement cost implying a comparative advantage in pursuing collective actions. Moral groups perpetuate due to positive feedbacks between morality, institutions, and the implied pattern of cooperation.