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"Institutionalism" is the buzzword of the 1980s and 1990s in the social sciences. What is new in the contemporary analysis of institutions and what does it offer to the study of social order? In this book a distinguished group of social scientists drawn from political science, economics, and sociology, explore this question and show us how different theoretical approaches to institutional analysis can be joined to build a more thorough understanding of institutions.
The modern analysis of institutions has taken two separate paths. Rational choice theories identified institutions as a strategic response to collective action problems and as instruments for the promotion of cooperation. Contrary to these theories, such cooperation is fundamental to social order and a prerequisite for economic growth and development. An alternate form of institutionalism, drawn from sociological and historical analysis, de-emphasized the role of choice, strategy, and design in the construction of many of the major institutions in social life. This form of institutional analysis pointed to the role of prior choices, common norms, and culture in making certain options and choices unthinkable or impossible. Institutions, according to this view, may represent a certain kind of social order, but they do not always promote cooperation and economic growth. The more recent theories in the "new institutionalism" bring these seemingly irreconcilable perspectives closer together. New institutionalists argue that institutions must be grounded in the social fabric, and thus rational choice must be combined with historical and cultural variables. The papers collected in this volume address the merging of rational choice and historical-sociological institutionalism in the "new institutionalism."
The contributors are Randall L. Calvert, Christopher Clague, Kathleen Cook, Peter Hall, Virginia Haufler, James Johnson, Gary Miller, Karol Soltan, Rosemary C. R. Taylor, Eric M. Uslaner, and Barry Weingast.