Constitutive Historicism in Barry Eichengreen’s Hall of Mirrors The Great Depression, The Great Recession, and the Uses-and Misuses-of History

21 04 2015

As readers of this blog are aware, I am very interested in how the constitutive historicism approach can be applied in management research (for an earlier blog post, see here). Constitutive historicism involves investigation how economic actors’ perceptions of their own place in historical time shape their strategies.  In other words, you look at the lessons others have derived from their reading of history. In a paper I delivered at the British Academy of Management last year and in some follow up papers I have advocated the application of this approach to a wide range of management-school research topics. Of course, I’m not the only one calling for this approach: see Wadhwani and Jones (2014) in Organizations in Time for a discussion of how we can use constitutive historicism to understand entrepreneurial decision-making.

I’m almost finished Barry Eichengreen’s great new book  Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, The Great Recession, and the Uses-and Misuses-of History. This book is filled with interesting information about interwar economic history, the recent global financial crisis and is therefore a must-read for anyone who teaches about these topics. Moreover, the quality of the writing is delightfully superior and should please anyone who appreciates a sardonic turn of phrase. The really interesting thing about the book, however, is that it is replete with comments about how actors’ perceptions of the past shaped their actions in the present, for better or for worse. Needless to say, Ben Bernanke, the economic historian turned Fed chair, appears frequently in the pages of this book.