chapter  20
7 Pages

Ceremonialism as the dramatization of prosaic technology: Who did invent the coup de poing?

This essay is one of the most succinct critiques ever written of the great man theory of economic history. Hamilton explains that new technology is not invented or discovered by great men. It is not a product of individual genius. Instead, new technology is a product of the community’s existing body of matter-of-fact knowledge about how to do things. Technological progress is not a poetic struggle of great heroes as they battle against communal ignorance. Technological progress is the life process of the community as its working members go about the everyday activity of making a living. As he explains one of the major themes of institutionalism, Hamilton also illuminates ceremonialism and the great neoclassical fallacy of treating the factors of production as products of the natural world rather than products of the social world. By “coup de poing,” Hamilton does not mean giving someone a direct punch with the fist. That is the common meaning of the term. However, it is also the name of an early tool, a hand-held tool with a sharp edge that was used in Paleolithic times as an ax. Hamilton uses the latter meaning of coup de poing.