All attempts to define American institutionalism, whether in terms of a set of key methodological or theoretical principles or in terms of the contributions of the three generally accepted “founding” figures of Thorstein Veblen, Wesley Mitchell, and John R. Commons, have run into a problem with the apparent disparities within the movement. In terms of the three “founders” there are obvious and quite dramatic differences between the methodologies and theoretical directions of the three men. Veblen is associated with an evolutionary approach, a key distinction between pecuniary institutions and technological or industrial requirements, and a biting critique of orthodox theory and business practices; Mitchell with quantitative methods and detailed research on business cycles, an approach he established at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Commons with documentary histories, work on labor issues and public utility regulation, and an analytical scheme emphasizing the evolution of legal institutions and processes of dispute resolution. The same problem shows up with more explicit types of definition that often seem to capture only some parts or aspects of the movement and not others, or are so broad as to lack much specific content. Institutionalism easily appears as incoherent, as little more than a set of individual research programs with nothing in common other than a questioning of more orthodox theory and method. Thus, Mark Blaug has stated that institutionalism “was never more than a tenuous inclination to dissent from orthodox economics” (Blaug 1978, p. 712), and George Stigler has claimed that institutionalism had “no positive agenda of research,” “no set of problems or new methods,” nothing but “a stance of hostility to the standard theoretical tradition” (quoted in Kitch 1983, p. 170). This view still finds wide currency— for example Oliver Williamson has recently argued that “unable or unwilling to offer a rival research agenda, the older institutional economics was given over to methodological objections to orthodoxy” (Williamson 1998b, p. 24; see also 1998a).