This paper just rang with application to historical data as I read it. The self-enforcing nature of institutions, positive and negative feedback, feedback diagrams, and even human agency has a place in this model. Is it useful The question is whether the model is useful when applied without mathematics to make sense of history, of elite contention for resources. Only one example is presented in any detail. This is a dense paper that requires many readings to make sense of, but the pay-off in deeper understanding of superficial historical data promises to be great.
Other recent Stanford working papers by Greif:
Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade
Institutions and Impersonal Exchange: The European Experience
Avner Greif's personal homepage has additional texts:
Avner Greif and David D. Laitin -- A Theory of Endogenous Institutional Change
1. Introduction to book on institutional economics of medieval trade
2. "Commitment, Coercion and Markets: The Nature and Dynamics of Institutions Supporting Exchange" from the "Handbook of New Institutional Economics"