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New Institutionalism
May 6, 2013
Hall and Taylor:New Institutionalism
New institutionalism refers to a turn toprivliginginstitutions that stemmed from a critique of thetraditionanalstructural-functionalist approach of the 1960s and 1970s.Arose in the late 1980s and took several different and largely independent forms, though each shared an focus on the importance of institutions in explaining the behavior of individuals.
Historical Institutionalism
Takes from group theory argument that politics is the struggle among competing groups for control of scarce resourcesAccepted structural-functionalist description of institutions as forming a system, but emphasized the observation that the structure of the system itself tended to influence outcomes rather than emphasize the ways in which individuals’ social, psychological and cultural traits drive the system.Thus, one part of the movement to “bring the state back in” that took place in the late 1980s-early 1990s.
Historical Institutionalism
Institutions for this school of thought are the formal or informal routines, norms and conventions embedded in the organizational structure of a national political systemDifferent forms of the school:Calculative: explain individual behavior as shaped by the capacity of institutions to provide certainty, in that they providing information about others’ actions and how others will react to own actions, thus making the strategic pursuit of interests (as defined outside the institutional system) easier.Institutions persist because they provide an equilibrium, in the absence of which actors would be worse off.
Historical Institutionalism
Cultural mode: see individuals assatisfiscersof goals, whose actions are affected by the worldviews (moral and cognitive templates) provided by established routines and norms embedded in organizations. These templates influence the strategy actors take by shaping the actor’s interpretation of events and conditions to which the strategy is responding.Persist because taken for granted and thus resistant to reflection that informs change
Historical Institutionalism
Users of both types of historical institutionalismTend to combine the two approachesEmphasize the importance of power and unequal power relations– uncover second and third faces of power, emphasize how institutions distribute power unevenly. States and organizations are not neutral: given particular groups better access to decision-making than othersEmphasize the variability of policies and decisions across systems by underlining the contextual nature of path dependence based on history of policymaking, particular structure of institutions. Thus also emphasize that what is produced by institutions is often unintended and inefficient rather than intended and functionally fitting (as opposed to structural-functionalism, which emphasizes the broad similarities among systems due to the universal requirements of such systems and the bounding effects of rationally performing a set of universal functions).
Rational Choice Institutionalism
Explains behavior of individuals through institutions by emphasizing how institutions are able to create situations in which rational choice/collective action paradoxes are resolved (e.g., Arrow’s Theorem in terms of legislatures: rules of procedures, committee structures allow legislation to be passed by creating bounded agendas, rather than endless cycles of competing and failed pieces of legislation)
All assume:Actors have fixed preference, and behave instrumentally and strategically to maximize preferencesPolitics is a series of collective action dilemmas– individuals seeking to maximize preferences when acting together tend to obtain suboptimal results without the presence of institutions (Prisoners’ Dilemma, Tragedy of the Commons)Explain the origins of institutions by deducing their function by reference to the value they provide to actors as opposed to alternative arrangements
Holds that behavior can be explained by reference institutions whose form and structure are importantly influenced by culture as well as by function, with “culture” referencing symbols, ceremonies, etc., that are specific to modes of activities, not just territorial regions (culture of particular businesses, of particular types of government agencies which are common across different governments, national economies)
Attributes:Define institutions broadly, not just norms and procedures but also symbolic systems, cognitive scripts and moral templates that provide the basis for interpretation, thus eroding the line separating institution and culture that is emphasized in political science.Institutions provide cognitive resources as well as norms that are internalizedRelationship between individual actions and institutions mutually constitutive and interactive.Institutiosnprovide the scripts by which people interpret, understand and thereby act on situations, thereby also reinforcing the scriptWhile actors are rational, what actors believe to be rational action is socially constructed rather than given by instrumental rationalityActors adopt actions less because of the instrumental values of those actions and more because those actions enhance social legitimacy.
Schmidt: Taking Ideas and Discourses Seriously
A fourth type of new institutionalism, in the form ofDiscoursiveInstitutionalism, has arisen out of the people using the three original new institutionalism.This new way of thinking emphasize the dynamic nature of ideas and discourse as a way of explaining change in institutions, something the original new institutionalisms dealt with by assuming that change comes from the outside.
Generally emphasizes thatthe role of ideas in constituting political action,the power of persuasion in political debate,the centrality of deliberation for democraticlegitimation,the (re) construction of political interests and values,the dynamics of change in history and culture
Discursive Institutionalism
Range of interests:In normative, philosophical, strategic ideasVarious kinds and levels of discourse, myths, stories, symbolic systemsDiscourse communities, advocacy networks, mediatorsDiscourse analysis, analysis of deliberative politics, analysis of communications,
Discursive Institutionalism
Located within the context of institutionsBut institutions are not external, constraining entities, but both internal and external, constitutive as well as constraining, source of influence and influenced by actors“With regard to institutional change, this would involve demonstrating how and when ideas in discursive interactions enable actors to overcome constraints which explanations in terms of interests, path dependence, and/or culture present as overwhelming impediments to action.”
DI and Rationalistic Institutionalism
Discourse and ideas useful to deal with problems of:Determinism: institutionalism as attempt to account for institutions by pointing to them as providing a functional way out of collective action dilemmas appear to identify only one approach as viable, when several are, as demonstrated by variety across contextsDifficulty explaining the politics behind the origins of institutions– how do institutions arrive out of alleged functional necessityDifficulty in explaining changes in institutions– if roots in functionality that is satisfied by presence of institution, why change?
DI and RI
First, ideas may come before interests, acting as ‘road maps’ for individual actors to clarify their goals or limit the range of strategies to be taken – in which case ideas seem to determine interests, but we have no explanation of the selection mechanism by which certain ideas get chosen over others .Second, ideas may come after interests, acting as ‘focal points’ for actors to choose among equally acceptable alternatives (i.e., multiple Pareto-improvingequilibria) – in which case ideas serve at best to ‘mop up’ residual variance, and we still can’t explain the mechanism by which the now exogenously, interest-determined ideas are picked.Third, ideas may be embedded in institutions, in which case it is the institutions rather than the ideas that really matter to the actors.A fourth-way RI scholars see ideas coming in is as after-the-factlegitimationof actors’ interest-based action, following an instrumental logic, or as ‘hooks’ for elite interests (e.g.,Shepsle, 1985) – in which case ideas are not really taken seriously at all.
DI and RI
Real problem is that turn to ideas and discourse removes assumption of fixed preferences and the separation of objective from subjective interests that is the key to DI analysis and to its capacity to create parsimonious explanations.Fundamentally cannot account for the fact that people’s levels of uncertainty tend to be higher than DI assumes, and that those levels of uncertainty differ.How tooperationalizenotion that ideas and discourse are the aspects of institutions that both constitute people and interests, and to account for how and why institutions (and thus ideas and interests) might change.
DI and Historical Institutionalism
Helps explain change and variation by reference to the content of ideas and the importance of acting in accordance with understandings of legitimacyThus can work with DI providing understandings of agency (people using ideas and discourse to both create and act in accordance with institutions by reference to the interpretations of the world and understandings of legitimacy they hold) and HI providing the understanding of rules and procedures which are the subjects of actors’ activities.
DI and Sociological Institutionalism
Those who use DI use emphasis on ideas and structures to talk about leaders, communities, coalitions as actors who not only use institutions as frames of interpretation, but also as the groundwork for reinterpretation of the world and for the culture of norms and procedures that is currently in place.Thus DI practitioners locate ideational resources inside people rather than outside, allowing them to describe people as using those resources rather than merely referring to the deterministic power of institutions as culture.
DI as Providing a Basis for Understanding Politics as Realm of action rather than Determination
These foreground discursive abilities are essential to explaining institutional change, because they refer to peoples’ ability to think outside the institutions in which they continue to act, to talk about such institutions in a critical way, to communicate and deliberate about them, to persuade themselves as well as others to change their minds about their institutions, and then to take action to change them, whether by building ‘discursive coalitions’ for reform against entrenched interests in the coordinative policy sphere or informing and orienting the public in the communicative political sphere.Conveying ‘good’ policy ideas through a persuasive discourse helps political actors win elections and gives policy actors a mandate to implement their ideas.
Other ways of combining DI and other New Institutionalism
With HI: helps account for diversity across systems by reference to differences in historical norms and proceduresWith RI: helps move RI from exclusive view that people are rational in an unthinking manner, and add greater depth and nuance to additional understandings of the importance of power in negotiations and the following (and creation) of norms and procedures– the use of ideas and discourse can be a source of power.
Conclusion (from Schmidt)
DIendogenizeschange, explaining much of how and why public actors bring about institutional change through public action.With regard to the other institutionalisms, moreover, the discursive approach helps to explain the actual preferences and strategies of actors in RI and HI, and it helps to explain changes in the normative orientations emphasized by SI.Where DI can go wrong is when it considers ideas and discourse to the exclusion of issues of power (read RI instrumental rationality) and position (read HI institutional structures), when it assumes that DI deliberation necessarily trumps RI manipulation, or when it over-determines the role of ideas and discourse by forgetting that ‘stuff happens’ or that historical institutions and cultural frames affect the ways in which ideas are expressed and discourse conveyed.





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