Institutional Change

The Origins and Evolution of Political Institutions, 26-27 mai 2016
  • Actualité Sciences PoActualité Sciences Po

Institutional Change:
The Origins and Evolution of Political Institutions

An Evaluation of Democracy Research Group Workshop

26 & 27 May 2016

Sciences Po, Paris

The emergence of new institutions and institutional change constitute central questions for political science. Institutions have a profound and active role in explaining the political realities we analyze. Since institutions influence actors’ behavior, we often seek to understand their effect to ultimately understand the political phenomena we study. Given the importance of institutions the question arises why certain institutions are implemented and amended in some polities but not in others. To fully understand political institutions requires an understanding of why they were put in place and how they are changed. The workshop will have two parts, which structure the contributions. The first one focuses directly on the emergence of institutions and the second one concentrates on how existing institutions evolve and are changed.

The workshop will have two parts which structure the contributions. The first one focuses directly on the emergence of institutions and the second one concentrates on how existing institutions evolve and are changed.

Session 1: How do new institutions emerge?

In this first part, we will focus on particular moments and on key periods where new institutions are generated and adopted. This can be a key moment such as the period of regime change where many institutions are changed at once but it also covers singular changes where e.g. income taxation is introduced, or a federalism reform is implemented. Conceptually relevant is the idea of punctuated equilibrium, where one expects a profound and sudden change following long periods of stability, the notion of national trajectory that insists on the unique character of each national configuration when institutions are put in place, or the premise of rational actors or transition. Do certain configurations of actors and certain factors foster the emergence of new institutions? How important are ideas, national history, and values of the reformers in these processes?

Session 2: How do institutions evolve and get reformed?

When put in place, institutions are remarkably enduring and able to survive many challenges, so much that their evolution and the reforms following their implementation tend to be overlooked by institutional analysts. Indeed, they tend to focus mostly on the consequences of reform or on the emergence of the institution. Nevertheless, even without being fully replaced, institutions are constantly adapted and reformed. A starting point to this endeavor is provided by Thelen, Mahoney and Streeck who have developed typologies of institutional change. How do institutions evolve after they have been put in place? Can they be reformed to overcome inefficiencies and unintended negative consequences? One of the challenges which arises in this line of inquiry is how to disentangle the change of the formal rules and the change of the informal practices, behavior, and values. These two sessions hope to contribute to these questions.

Lead Organizers:

  • Camille Bedock (Sciences Po, Bordeaux)
  • Lucas Leemann (University College London)


View the workshop program here. 

And visit the project’s page here.

Find here the summary of the workshop

Program_Paris_2016 (5) (1).pdf984.33 Ko

Strengthening Parliaments

3-4 December, 2015
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a conference organised by

PADEMIA / Centre d'études européennes / LIEPP

December 3-4, 2015

Salle Goguel

Sciences Po , 27 rue Saint Guillaume, 75007 Paris

Conference Summary:

During the two day conference, 25 scholars from all across Europe discussed the politics, features and evaluation of institutional reforms aimes at strengthening parliaments. Of many discussed topics were: Why do those reforms tend to be more numerous all around Europe? How are they developed, realized and implemented? And, what are their consequences? Case studies from many countries (Iceland, Israel, Spain, Finland, UK, France...) made clear that beyond idiosyncratic features, institutional engineering reforms face similar challenges and processes, especially the fitness between the reforms and good practices on the one hand, and MPs' individual interests on the other. Institutional development paths also matter for adopting successfully parliamentary reforms. In the end, the great interest of the workshop confirms that the issue of reforms in parliament and institutional engineering tend to be increasingly central to the attention of the scientific community.

Conference theme:

Institutional Engineering refers to various changes in the organizational rules established with a precise aim. In the case of parliaments and parliamentary democracy, institutional engineering therefore accounts for the efforts made in order to strengthen parliaments. In most cases, the change of rules takes place at a constitutional level through amendments to the Constitution but it can also be realized at a lower stage such as ordinary laws or standing orders.

The workshop originates from the observation that many of recent or on-going institutional engineering reforms officially aim at empowering, if not restoring, parliaments within their institutional system. This has not always been the case. Throughout the 20th century, many constitutional changes aimed at strengthening the executive power decisional capacity by implementing various ways of rationalizing parliaments. Converging examples from the control over military operations to the budgetary powers of the parliament indicate that this is seemingly no longer the case. In developed democracies but also elsewhere, many institutional reforms officially aim at deepening parliamentary democracies. Yet, other institutional reforms can be driven by other aims, for instance controlling budgetary deficits, adapting to a country’s participation to regional organizations, strengthening judicial review or transparency, implementing better regulation agendas, etc. The multiplicity of agendas for institutional reforms inevitably raises the issue of the coherence and compatibility between them.

The workshop addresses classical questions to that trend: ‘why and how?’ ‘so what?’

1. With the ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ issues, we aim at entering into the politics of institutional engineering. Why are constitutional or standing orders reforms affecting legislatures launched? In which political contexts? Are those reforms more likely when national parliaments are comparatively weaker? What is the input provided by regional organizations, international treaties and transnational organizations from the OECD to the Inter-Parliamentary Union?

The point also requires to address the specific role played individually and collectively by MPs in the process. Are agendas for institutional reforms decided thanks to their pressure and initiatives? Or are they imposed by external actors such as ministers, judges, legal scholars, etc.?

2. The workshop also holds the ambition to assess the effects of institutional engineering. At the end of day, does changing the rules really impact on the legislatures’ role? We know that there could be many factors contributing to limit or cancel the effects of such reforms: the weight of inherited institutional routines, the lack of relevance of an institutional agenda from an MP interest based perspective, the lacking fit of institutional transfers given domestic idiosyncrasies, etc. Many claims can be put for explaining the absence of change. Yet, there are cases where a change of rules does impact on political behavior and even policy outputs even if it is sometimes the case indirectly or unexpectedly. Why do some reforms succeed and others not? Does their impact depend on the quality of the ‘engineer’ or on the capacity of MPs to adapt?

The evaluation of institutional engineering reforms can also be made from the perspective of the legislatures’ influence. Given the multiplicity of the official aims addressed by the reforms, and their possible inconsistency, which kind of reforms - or which mixture – eventually contributes to empower legislatures? Beyond the assessment of a specific case, is institutional engineering able to fight back against the centennial trend of domination of the executive power?

ConvenersSelma Bendjaballah, Olivier Rozenberg, Guillaume Tusseau.


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La commande publique d’enquêtes d’opinion

19 - 20 oct. 2015
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19 et 20 octobre 2015

Sciences Po

Amphithéâtre Erignac

13 rue de l'université, Paris 7e

Colloque organisé par le LIEPP et le groupe de projet de l’AFSP PopAct « Opinion publique & Action publique » avec le soutien du Centre d’études européennes de Sciences Po et de l’UMR PACTE, de Sciences Po de Grenoble.

Responsables scientifiques :
Céline Belot (PACTE / Sciences Po Grenoble)
Laurie Boussaguet (Université de Rouen / CEE)
Frédéric Gonthier (Sciences Po Grenoble / PACTE)
Charlotte Halpern (CEE / Sciences Po)


Quel est le rôle attribué à la commande publique d’enquêtes d’opinion dans l’action publique ? Depuis plus de 40 ans, la pratique par les gouvernants d’enquêtes (i.e., de sondages, d’entretiens, de focus groups ou d’observations) visant à « prendre le pouls de l’opinion » s’est généralisée, et ce à tous les niveaux de gouvernement. La croissance continue de la commande de sondages et autres modes de « recueil » de l’opinion par l’Elysée de Charles De Gaulle à Jacques Chirac en est un exemple frappant. Cette tendance s’est encore renforcée sous Nicolas Sarkozy. En cela, les présidents français ne se distinguent pas de leurs homologues étrangers, les travaux américains mettant également en évidence l’intérêt croissant des présidents depuis John Kennedy pour les instruments visant à faire surgir l’opinion. De fait, jamais dans l’histoire des démocraties les gouvernants ne semblent s’être autant souciés de l’opinion des gouvernés.

Pour autant, si cette pratique s’est développée, saisir l’usage qui en est fait, comprendre quels intérêts elle sert dans l’action publique et quel rôle lui est attribué par les gouvernants s’avère encore aujourd’hui malaisé. Plusieurs questions se posent : Sommes-nous entrés dans une nouvelle ère politique où la consultation permanente de l’opinion offre une boussole pour les gouvernants, en leur donnant la possibilité de répondre aux demandes des citoyens sur le temps court et de se conformer à l’idéal des gouvernants responsive ? Si tel est le cas, comment expliquer que malgré cette consultation constante des gouvernés, ceux-ci se montrent plus critiques vis-à-vis des gouvernants et des décisions politiques que par le passé ? Doit-on plutôt considérer que la commande publique d’enquêtes d’opinion répond aux besoins des gouvernants, non seulement de prévoir l’acceptabilité sociale d’une décision, mais également de développer des argumentaires visant à faire « changer l’opinion » ? Le cas échéant, de quel type de changement parle-t-on ? S’agit-il d’accompagner les transformations de l’opinion en utilisant les enquêtes pour lui renvoyer une image adéquate d’elle-même ? S’agit-il encore, suivant les principes du marketing social, de promouvoir des comportements désirables parce qu’utiles à un groupe ou la société dans son ensemble ? Quelle est alors la place de la commande publique d’enquête en aval de la décision politique ? Peut-elle intervenir simplement comme un instrument d’évaluation d’une politique publique ? Comment rendre compte de ses effets sociaux et notamment des stratégies d’appropriation plurielles dont les enquêtes d’opinion peuvent faire l’objet ?

Autant de questions qui restent largement sans réponse, non pas seulement pour les observateurs extérieurs mais pour les praticiens eux-mêmes qui, sont rarement invités à expliciter leurs pratiques. A l’évidence, certaines de ces pratiques relèvent de logiques institutionnelles, économiques et symboliques que les acteurs ne souhaitent pas spontanément divulguer et peuvent donc résister à objectiver. Pour autant, nous faisons le pari, à travers ce colloque qui réunira autour d’une même table différents acteurs de la commande publique d’enquêtes d’opinions - élus, élites administratives en charge de la commande d’enquêtes, praticiens des instituts de sondages ou des agences de communication, et universitaires spécialistes de ces questions - que le dévoilement, ne serait-ce que partiel, des mécanismes à l’oeuvre permettra d’enrichir la réflexion collective sur ces pratiques en France et dans les institutions européennes.

Le colloque sera organisé autour du schéma de production d’une commande d’enquête d’opinion, en commençant par les origines de la commande, la décision effective de la prise de commande, la passation d’un marché entre client et prestataire(s), et enfin, les usages de la commande.

Programme_la commande publiques d'enquêtes d'opinion_8.10.2015 v2.pdf363.63 Ko

Call for Papers - October 15 Deadline

Strengthening Parliaments through Institutional Engineering - Paris, 3-4/12/15
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Sciences Po (Paris) 

May 15-16, 2014

Sciences Po will hold a conference on Goods Markets, the Macroeconomy and Policy, designed to bring together leading scholars in the field. The meeting will take place Thursday May 15, and Friday May 16, 2014.

Conference theme:

The conference is to focus on research incorporating trading frictions in the goods market for the performance of the macroeconomy and the design of policy. Topics include, but are not limited to: equilibrium trade and prices in economies with goods market frictions; dynamics of aggregates in models with demand externalities; the design of optimal scal, monetary and labor market policy. Preference will be given to recent papers that have not previously been presented at major conferences.

Confirmed Speakers: Wouter den Haan, Robert Hall, and Guido Menzio.

Submission procedure:

Please submit an electronic version of the paper (PDF format) no later than March 10th, 2014 to: Paper selections will be finalized by the end of March 2014.

Tentative schedule:

Thursday May 15          Presentations 10:00 to 17:30            Dinner: 20:00

Friday May 16               Presentations: 10:00 to 15:00

Organizers: Pascal Michaillat, Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau, Emmanuel Saez, Etienne Wasmer and Philippe Weil.


Funded by the European Research Council, Banque de France, OFCE and LIEPP.

Strategic Voting in Two-vote Elections

12 March
Seminar "Evaluation of Democracy"
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Strategic Voting in Two-vote Elections

Thursday 12 March 2015


Salle D605

Sciences Po, 199 rue bd St. Germain, 75007 Paris

Free entrance with limited seating available

Please register here to confirm your attendance

Seminar organised by Nicolas Sauger and Emiliano Grossman within the Research Group «Evaluation of Democracy».

The political scientist, Philipp Harfst (Universität Greifswald Institut für Politik) is visiting Sciences Po CEE/LIEPP for March 2015 and will present the results of his research on strategic voting in two-vote elections. Professor Harfst studies the effects of different electoral rules on electoral behaviour, analysing the impact of two-vote elections on strategic voting. Following his presentation, his results will be discussed by Nicolas Sauger (CEE/LIEPP) and Emiliano Grossman (CEE/LIEPP).

Philipp Harfst

Philipp Harfst
Junior Professor of Political Science, University of Greifswald

« Strategic Voting in Two-vote Elections »


Discussion by:

Nicolas Sauger
Associate Professor and Co-Director of the LIEPP «Evaluation of Democracy» Research Group (Sciences Po, CEE/LIEPP)

Emiliano Grossman
Associate Professor and Co-Director of the LIEPP «Evaluation of Democracy» Research Group (Sciences Po, CEE/LIEPP)