North, Williamson among Most-Cited Social Scientists

By Peter Klein

The LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog recently published lists of the all-time most-cited books and articles in the social sciences. Not surprisingly, institutional and organizational economics is well represented on the lists. Douglass North's Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (1990) is the 14th-most-cited book and Oliver Williamson's Economic Institutions of Capitalism (1985) is 23rd. (Marx's Das Kapital -- perhaps part of the Old Institutional Economics? -- ranks #17.) The all-time top-cited articles include Jensen and Meckling's "Theory of the Firm" (1976), Barney's "Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage" (1991), Kahnemann and Tversky's "Prospect Theory" (1979), and Granovetter's "Strength of Weak Ties" (1973). I was surprised that neither Coase's "Problem of Social Cost" nor "Theory of the Firm" made the top ten, but they would presumably make the top 25 had the article list been longer. 

Somewhat confusingly (to me), the author considers philosophy part of the social sciences, so the lists include Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1960), various books by Foucault, and Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a notorious work in critical theory and a staple of postmodern PhD programs. There is also a mistake (pointed out by Scott Masten in the comments) in that Williamson's Markets and Hierarchies is classified as an article rather than a book.