Institutions: A tower of babel?

8th November 2023 @ 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia
Alessandra Caldini
Join Stefano Bartolini in this year’s fourth EGPP seminar series as he unravels the confusion surrounding political institutions, norms, and rules.
Despite the large theoretical literature about institutions and institutionalism over the last thirty years, the specific nature of political institutions has been neglected. There is considerable and unbearable confusion about 1) what phenomena deserve to be labelled ‘institutions’, 2) which institutions merit to be called political, and 3) what distinguishes political institutions from the other types of social and economic institutions. Political institutions have been subsumed into the broader problems of the emergence, persistence, change and functions of all types of institutions, from cultural templates to customs and conventions, from social norms to administrative cultures and role expectations, from property rights to organisational forms, to end with constitutions, political parties, welfare states, etc. Political institutions are defined strictly as norms and rules of ‘conferral’, to be distinguished from norms/rules of ‘conduct’ and of ‘recognition’. These norms and rules empower rulers, set limits to their capacity to ensure behavioural compliance, and define the proper means for achieving such compliance. In this discussion the author draws logical and empirical consequences from this understanding.