The Development of Political Institutions

Power, Legitimacy, Democracy
Federico Ferrara
Human motivation and historical influence in political development
This title is open access and free to read on the web A free online version is forthcoming


While the literature on “new institutionalism” explains the stability of institutional arrangements within countries and the divergence of paths of institutional development between countries, Federico Ferrara takes a “historical institutionalist” approach to theorize dynamic processes of institutional reproduction, institutional decay, and institutional change in explaining the development of political institutions. Ferrara synthesizes “power-based” or “power-distributional” explanations and “ideas-based” “legitimation explanations.” He specifies the psychological “microfoundations” of processes of institutional development, drawing heavily from the findings of experimental psychology to ensure that the explanation is grounded in clear and realistic assumptions regarding human motivation, cognition, and behavior. Aside from being of interest to scholars and graduate students in political science and other social-scientific disciplines whose research concentrates on the genesis of political institutions, their evolution over time, and their impact on the stability of political order and the quality of governance, the book will be required reading in graduate courses and seminars in comparative politics where the study of institutions and their development ranks among the subfield’s most important subjects.

Federico Ferrara is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian & International Studies at City University of Hong Kong.

Praise / Awards

  • “A major contribution to institutional analysis in the social sciences. Federico Ferrara does a masterful job of synthesizing different approaches and developing an exciting new framework that is comprehensive in scope. If I were to assign one book on institutional explanation to my students, it would be this one.”
    —James Mahoney, Northwestern University
  • “This is a highly sophisticated and original theoretical statement about political authority and development. Ferrara successfully integrates the study of power and legitimacy while elegantly interweaving contemporary and classical accounts of political organization across the ages.”

    —Orfeo Fioretos, Temple University

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 216pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2022
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-13283-6

  • $65.00 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2022
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-90278-1