Research focused on the development of societies
Through my research, I want to understand how societies develop in the long run and explain the striking differences we observe in their developmental paths. Together with my team of young researchers, I aim to find out why some societal arrangements are successful and others are not, and what drives the formation of these arrangements.
Why are some societies capable of adapting their organisational structure to new challenges, and of undergoing a successful transition of economy and society, while others lack this capability or experience painful shocks or unsustainable shifts? This success can be measured economically, in GDP per capita or wealth, but also in ways that include social aspects. Consider examples like equity and welfare, resilience to hazards and disasters, and ecological aspects such as the sustainable use of resources.
Preconditions for the “good society”
In recent years, I have become increasingly fascinated by the fundamental issue of the changing organisation and the functioning of land, lease and labour markets. I am interested in their divergent effects. Not only on economic growth, but also on equality, resilience, and social and ecological sustainability. A next step would be to broaden the picture and include other coordination systems, including the state and the associative order, to see how their organisations and interactions contribute to the preconditions needed for a “good society”.
My aim is to increase our understanding of the diverse, long-term interactions between economy, society and institutions, and the regional differences in these interactions. A better insight will lead to a better comprehension of the divergences found in the world today.
Combining various disciplines to answer questions that surround societies today
I look beyond the borders of my own discipline and collaborate with economists, sociologists, political scientists and ethicists. I believe that combining expertise from different disciplines, is incredibly important because it allows me to analyse an issue from different perspectives, which gives rise to a far fuller picture.
Comparative analysis in time and space
Pre-industrial Northwestern Europe is the area where I test most of my ideas. More recently, however, I extended the geographical comparison to other parts of Europe and the Middle East, and I have become more interested in extending my research lines into the modern period and even up to the present.
In 2019, I received the Spinoza Prize from the NWO, which will be spent on scientific research.
Distinguished University Professor
On april 1, 2021 I was appointed distinguised University Professor of Utrecht University.