Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson’s Notion of Exogenous Imposition of Colonial Institutions onto Colonies— A Critique in the Light of Historical Evidence

Madeeha Gohar Qureshi, Unbreen Qayyum, Musleh Ud Din , Ejaz Ghani


This paper provides critique of Acemoglu, Johnson, and
Robinson’s (2001, 2002) notion that rests on the hypothesis of exogenous
imposition of colonial institutions onto their respective colonies based
on conditions for their settlement. Our research brings forth the
logical loopholes in Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson (AJR) by
constructing arguments against the over-simplified assumption of
exogenous imposition of colonial institutions in explaining the
differences in development today. To prove our point, we build on two
main arguments from history to show that some degree of endogeneity did
indeed exist in colonial institutions that were imposed on the colonies.
Our first argument revolves around the theme that how Atlantic slave
trade evolved with colonialism and had meaningful technological and
institutional consequences in the colonial metropolitan state. And these
evolving conditions in coloniser’s mother country not only shaped
incentives for mercantilist colonialism at one level and at the other
became the base of institutional setup of progressive forms. In our
second part of the argument, we demonstrate the role of native agency
either in the form of local’s formal or informal pre-colonial
institutions or in the form of their hold within the colonies, were all
important in shaping what path colonisers eventually took for the
institutional transfer. Based on these historical evidences, it is
concluded that colonial institutions cannot be assumed as an exogenous
transfer based on the notion of settlement as per AJR, rather it can be
best described as an evolving fit between colonial and pre-colonial
institutions. Keywords: Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson’s (2001, 2002),
Reversal of Fortune, Institutions, Colonialism, Long-term Development

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