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The Theory of Share Tenancy: After 50 Years 《佃農理論》五十年研討會

July 25, 2017 - July 26, 2017

Half a century ago at the University of California, Los Angels, Steven N.S. Cheung submitted his Ph.D. thesis, “The Theory of Share Tenancy”. Provocative and original, backed up by unambiguous empirical evidence, the Theory of Share Tenancy quickly launched its author to stardom and an extraordinary career. A prestigious post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago came in 1967 (even before the thesis was finished); the same institution, a year later, made Cheung assistant professor of economics, only quickly lost him to the University of Washington in 1969, whose Department of Economics unanimously offered Cheung full professorship a few months after his joining.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Theory of Share Tenancy, the Ronald Coase Center for Property Rights Research at the University of Hong Kong is pleased to announce an academic conference, “the Theory of Share Tenancy: After 50 Years,” which is to be held on November 25-26, 2017 at Shenzhen. Chinese and overseas scholars, including Steven Cheung himself, will speak on the everlasting significance and growing relevance of the Theory of Share Tenancy in economics, past, present and future.

Bringing together leading economists of different generations, this conference is also an occasion to take up the question, “Whither economics?” In the past few decades, economics has witnessed the fall of classical price theory, from which the Theory of Share Tenancy came and to which the Theory of Share Tenancy contributed, and the rise of formalism and technicality in various disguises. Knight, Hayek, Keynes, Hicks, Coase, and Cheung are early critics of economics going astray. Recent global economic events have vindicated their criticisms and thrown economics into a soul-searching struggle for identity and direction. This conference hence also aims to interest, instruct and inspire the next generation of scholars to carry on the torch of reviving what Ronald Coase called “good economics” – economics that helps us at a theoretical level understand better how the real world economy works, and enables us at a practical level to see clearer what the problems are in in the economy and points us in the right direction to search for answers.

With these two purposes in mind, we welcome papers criticizing, developing, and extending the original arguments of the Theory of Share Tenancy, as well as papers that follow the spirit of the Theory of Share Tenancy to investigate real world economic problems from new theoretical perspectives. All papers will be reviewed by an ad hoc committee.  Best papers will be considered for a special issue of Man and the Economy: the Journal of the Coase Society.


Topics are suggested but not limited to:

  • The impact of The Theory of Share Tenancy
  • The Theory of Share Tenancy and the Coase Theorem
  • From the Theory of Share Tenancy to a general theory of contract
  • A Rising Star and the Birth of Contract Economics (Background History)
  • Transaction Costs vs. Risk Aversion: The Disappointing Development of Contract Economics (General Impact on Contract/Institutional Economics)
  • The transaction cost paradigm as proposed by the Theory of Share Tenancy
  • The scientific philosophy of the Theory of Share Tenancy
  • Tenancy-Inefficiency Debate and the Nature of the Farm (Specific Impact on Agricultural/Development Economics)
  • The Sharecropping Nature of the Xian System and Beyond (Impact on Chinese Economic Reform)


Important Dates

  • Abstract submission deadline – September 20,  2017
  • Full-paper deadline – October 20,  2017
  • Conference Dates – November 25-26, 2017


July 25, 2017
July 26, 2017
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