The 2021 EAEPE Robinson Prize went ex aequo to (1) Isabella Weber for her book titled How China escaped shock therapy.The market reform debate, Routledge (2021), (2)  Franklin Obeng-Odoom for his book titled Property, Institutions and Social Stratification in Africa, Cambridge University Press (2020), and (3)  Jean-Christophe Graz for his book titled The power of standards. Hybrid authority and the globalisation of services, Cambridge University Press (2019).

Isabella Weber

Winning the Joan Robinson Prize for my first book is a tremendous honor. Spending the first years of my research career as an economist working on a book on the history of non-Western economic thought was a bolt choice in a Eurocentric discipline structured around journal articles. I hope that the recognition of my book can encourage other young scholars to take up projects that are grounded in ethnographic work, cut across fields and aim to take up daring questions. Joan Robinson was bolt. Her brilliance and courage defied the sexism and orthodoxy of her day. Robinson was a theoretical economist but she was also a scholar with a deep concern for practical questions of development. She got carried away during the Cultural Revolution, but she tried to understand China until the end of her life when economic reforms were just beginning. My book takes us back to this moment, the crossroads of the 1980s that marks the divergence between Russia’s fall and China’s rise and the beginning of a new convergence in terms of economic power between China, Europe and the US. By asking How China Escaped Shock Therapy, I try to unpack the intellectual foundations of China’s economic rise. I center my investigation on the battle among economists over the right reform approach. Rather than treating ideas in isolation, I trace their historical, intellectual and material origins: I go back to China’s long history; connect the Chinese market reform debate to the question of post-war transition in the US and Europe; and through oral history interviews, link the economic arguments to personal histories and political constellations. The logic of shock therapy grounded in standard neoclassical models suggests that the state has to withdraw to make space for the market. The economics of China’s reform, in contrast, ultimately followed a logic of state market-creation and -participation that brought about a process of institutional innovation. Economists in China played a key role in defending a gradualist, experimentalist path. They shared the spirit and pluralist outlook of EAEPE. Their contributions at a fateful moment in China’s recent history underscore the importance of an institutionalist approach to economic research; and challenges us to rethink the role of prices as a core economic mechanism, to revisit our understanding of inflation, and to reconsider the role of markets and states in development – issues of great relevance in face of current global challenges.

Franklin Obeng-Odoom

I feel encouraged by this recognition.  My work is in original institutional economics, but I have been trying to develop this tradition in three ways by: (i) trying to demonstrate the centrality of land economics to socio-ecological and political-economic problems; (ii) emphasising urban and regional political economy; and (iii) embracing stratification economics. These are quite germane to the mission of EAEPE, but they tend to be on the margins. I hope this award is also a nod to these subfields in our field of evolutionary political economy, and a nudge to others. For, as they say, the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Thank you very much.

Jean-Christophe Graz


It is a great honour and pride to receive EAEPE’s Joan Robinson Prize for the best monograph published on a theme broadly in accord with the theoretical perspectives of EAEPE.

I would not dare to compare the book anywhere near the great achievement of Joan Robinson.However, what would come closer might be the effort to keep all sorts of orthodoxies at bay – something for which EAEPE fights for and remains extremely supportive in feeding pluralist and interdisciplinary approaches in political economy and cognate fields of social sciences. This is all the more true that I am not trained as an economist, nor do I teach economics. As a political scientist, I particularly cherish EAEPE in its ability to provide a unique party for those who take the economy as a field of study open to scientific disciplines and critical knowledge, rather than the supposedly legitimate object of a nomothetic and supposedly unified science.

The book aims at refreshing the analysis of the role of standards in the global expansion of services, with in-depth studies of their institutional environment and cases, including the global insurance industry and business process outsourcing in India.

In the same way as manufacturing is inconceivable without standardised nuts and bolts, it is difficult to imagine providing services across borders without proper guarantees regarding the quality and security of the activity expected to be performed to the customer’s satisfaction.

With a focus on the significance of voluntary international standards as privileged instruments in the organisation of contemporary capitalism, the book delves into the space spanning between the two poles of corporate power and State power – or said differently, between transnational capitalism and territorial sovereignty. It focuses on a non-conventional form of authority epitomised by standards, which is conceptualised as transnational and hybrid.

The expected contribution that the book might bring to debates closely related to EAEPE’s theoretical perspectives is related to existing studies drawing on institutional approaches and théories de la regulation. They tend to rest on restrictive hypotheses on the internat° of services, with a focus on the informational, institutional, and sectorial idiosyncrasies hindering trade transactions in services. In contrast, I argue that a perspective inspired by evolutionary and international political economy allows for a more extensive hypothesis. It sheds light on the potentially greater importance of standards without undermining their potential conflicting political economy objectives. This is particularly the case for a range of quality and security requirements likely to have strong soc & pol implications.

In short, the ambiguity of a transnational hybrid authority goes a long way towards explaining the power of standards in the globalisation of services and why they have thrived in the organisation of capitalism over the last decade.

The book available online in Open Access thanks to the funding of Swiss National Science Foundation (