Home > Uncategorized > Micro-Meso-Macro: Redressing Micro-Macro Syntheses

Micro-Meso-Macro: Redressing Micro-Macro Syntheses

from Stuart Holland and Andrew Black and the current issue of Economic Thought

When Janet Yellen questioned in her address to the Boston Fed in 2016 why there had been a lack of rethinking in economic theory since the financial crisis, she cited a host of
macroeconomic analyses yet did not even refer to ‘too big to fail’. Whereas one of the
reasons for seeking to redress the missing middle in mainstream economics relates to the
increased concentration of banks in the US since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 that not only aided the 2007-08 financial crisis, but has increased since it occurred (Grullon, Larkin and Michaely, 2017). Which also has been paralleled by ongoing concentration in global industry, with 100 corporations now representing half of world manufacturing output (UNCTAD, 2016) while 100 of them source over 70%, and 25 over 50% of global carbon emissions (CDP, 2017). 

Not that the meso concept, if still under-recognised, is new. It has been deployed and
supported in a wide range of literature for decades. Featuring, for example, in both regional and international economics since the 1970s (Holland, 1974ff; Amoroso, 1996; 1998) as well as in conceptualising nations within a contiguous area as meso regions Papadaskalopoulos, Karaganis and Christofakis, 2005). Such as Sub-Saharan Africa, persistently rent by both drought and poverty, the southern Mediterranean, penalised by austerity policies, or East Asia, still thriving. A mesoregion also may be between the size of a city or district and that of a nation, as in Brazil, where its use both is commonplace and part of national accounts (Roth and Brunnbauer, 2009). Rasmussen, Friis-Hanse and Funder (2018) have shown how mesolevel institutions, between a central state and local levels, can facilitate responses to climate change.

While it by now may be commonplace that alleged market reforms in collapsing the
Soviet Union led to both concentrated oligopoly, and oligarchy, Kleiner (2001; 2011) has
extensively evidenced this in terms of meso dynamics. Zezza and Llambí (2002) have
deployed meso in terms of policy reforms and rural poverty in Latin America. Kristjanson,
Maren, Baltenweck, Ogutu and Notenbaert (2005) have shown how mapping poverty can be enhanced by a meso level analysis in Africa. Much of Hodgson’s major long-term
achievement in gaining support for institutional economics has been in showing that this
spans the gap between micro and macroeconomics (Hodgson, 2000; 2007; 2013).
In parallel, in management theory, Hedström and Swedberg (1998) have evidenced
how meso institutions can bring about both intended – and unintended – macro-level
outcomes. Claude Ménard (2014) has suggested that a meso dimension can enhance
understanding both of authoritarian hierarchies and countering them by hybrid forms of
governance. In challenging command-and-control models of allegedly ‘new’ public
management in health services Oliveira and others (Oliveira et al, 2016, 2017) have
supported the case for relative autonomy at meso levels such as health authorities and
hospitals, to gain both economic efficiency and social efficiency in terms of the wellbeing of health professionals and welfare of the public.

Liljenström and Svedin (2005) have extensively analysed meso-level relevance in the
domains of physics, chemistry, ecology and social analysis, including economics, while
recognising differences in how the natural and social sciences tend to deal with scaling
issues. In parallel, in addressing problems from aggregation in economic, social and
environmental studies, Radej (2011) has submitted that only a meso approach can address, and redress, their conceptual challenge.

In a paper with the well merited title of ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, the main aim of Kim,
Wennberg and Croidieu (2016) is to demonstrate gains from introducing meso-level
institutions more explicitly into both economic and social theory and policies. While
recognising that meso structures are now widely studied independently they also propose, with supporting evidence, that more can be gained from integrating them into multi-level micro-meso-macro analysis.  read more

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