CFP:’Time Preference and Time Horizon in Historical Perspective’

3 03 2017

AS: I’m sharing this CFP for a very interesting workshop on the history of time preferences. The CFP is particularly important in light of the ongoing research on so-called patient capital, which is the subject of the current issue of the Socio-Economic Review.

I haven’t yet read the paper mentioned in the CFP, so I’m wondering whether the focus of the workshop will be solely on cross-national and cross-temporal variations in the time preferences of individuals or whether changes in the revealed time preferences of business corporations and other large organizations will also be a theme of the workshop. I ask because the time preferences of US corporations appear to have changed dramatically in the last generation (for the current debates on short-termism, see here, here, and here) while there isn’t much evidence that the mix of time preferences among the individuals who make up the US population. The evidence that US corporations have short time-horizons than they did in, say, 1980 suggests that changes in the systems for aggregating the time-preferences of different stakeholders (e.g., the corporate governance system) are the key variable here.

Anyway, the CFP is below:

Call for Papers on ‘Time Preference and Time Horizon in Historical Perspective’ There is a growing body of evidence that patience is an important driver of economic performance. Societies with a stronger ability to look into the future and save for the future are probably more prosperous in the long run. And for the transition towards a sustainable economy it is crucial to understand how present generations can take the interests of future generations into account. But what determines ‘time preference’ – the degree to which the (distant) future is taking into account – and ‘time horizon’ – the end of the period in the future that is still considered relevant for current decision making? How have the way we look into the future changed over time – from hunter gatherer societies via the spread of agriculture to today? And what explains spatial patterns in time preference and time horizon – why are certain societies more patient than others? And how can we measure such spatial differences and changes in time? Are interest rates a good guide? What are the causes and consequences of the recent rise of ‘short-termism’ among business leaders and politicians?


This is the subject of a workshop organized by the Centre for Global Economic History of Utrecht University in Stellenbosch (South Africa) on 6-7 November 2017.

A first attempt to review the literature and ideas about this topic can be found in the working paper on this subject by Gerarda Westerhuis and Jan Luiten van Zanden ‘Imagining the Future. Towards an Economic History of Time Preference and Time Horizon’ that can be mailed to you on request.

We welcome both detailed case studies (in particular relating to Sub Sahara Africa) and more general papers reviewing long term trends and/or global comparisons. Please send the abstract (500 words) of your paper before April 30 to: Gerarda Westerhuis and Jan Luiten van Zanden



One response

16 03 2017

Reblogged this on Organizational History Network and commented:
Reblogged from The Past Speaks:

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