‘The only true, the only real Oeconomy is Peace’John, Earl of Stair, quoted by J. Brewer, 1990
Studies of today's national financial structures have for a couple of decades been concerned with finding the main factor that lies behind the evolvement of different types of financial system. Indeed, such a factor may help explain why a country would rely rather on a ‘bank-based’ system that is more geared towards information-gathering and processing organizations, or on a ‘market-based’ system that is more geared towards competing individual agents that are meeting on an (more or less) open market.
Theoretical and empirical inquiries on such issues have been developing for over fifty years, fuelled by the apparent bank-to-market shift ignited in OECD countries at the end of the 1970s and the return of financial crises, almost nonexistent in developed countries during the Bretton Woods era.
Nevertheless one can still roughly divide the explanations for why a country would adhere to the one type or the other into two categories: 1) structural explanations or 2) developmental (or evolutionary) explanations.
The first category of explanations relies on the idea of (almost) permanent influence from certain social factors such as the legal basis, the distribution of political power, the existence of entrenched social or economic powers and so on. These are assumed to exert a constant (or at least an extreme long-term) influence on institutional development and thus serve a key role also for present financial structures. The second category is more concerned with the pattern of economic and financial development over time, and relies on the link between specific difficulties or challenges (regional imbalances, information asymmetry, relative backwardness and so on) and the build-up of institutional solutions to these difficulties. Academic historians tend to rely more on the second approach, which allows them to expand historical explanations and use careful contextual analysis.