- Actualité Sciences Po
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.
- 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