State - Institutionalism, Hay.docx

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Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Bruce Morrison

INSTITUTIONALISM – VIVIEN SCHMIDT  Nonetheless, and as explained in the introductory essay, its origins lie in the attempt to bring the state back into mainstream political science by a range of theorists critical of the dominant agent centred and behaviour list approaches of the time  The state still lies at the heart of new institutionlist scholarship – even if it is not always labelled as such  Rational choice institutionalism portrays the state either as itself a rational actor pursuing the logic of interest or as a structure of incentives within which rational actors follow their preferences. Historical institituionalism concentrates instead on the origins and development of the state and its constituent parts, which it explains by the outcomes of purposeful choices and historically unique initial conditions in logic of path dependence. Sociological institutionalism sees the state as socially constituted and culturally framed, with political agents acting according to the logic of appropriateness that follows from culturally-specific rules and norms.  New institutionalism discursive institutionalism considers the state in terms of the ideas and discourse that actors use to explain, deliberate or legitimize political action in institutional context according to the logic of communication  A largely descriptive methodology to explain the relations among levels and branches of government, with concepts of the state drawn from traditional political philosophy and understood in terms of sovereignty, justice, power, citizenship and legal status in international law  The system was static in the sense that revolutions were anomalies, unexplainable within the system, and change was absorbed by the system as an instance of homeostatic equilibrium  Methodological individualism replaced the methodological holism of structural-functionalist and Marxian approaches, while the old institutionalism was dismissed as mere description  Rational choice approaches were pioneered using mathematical models drawn from economics- most notably with the work of Anthony Downs  New institutionalism began in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the desire by a wide range of scholars to bring the institutions of the state back into the explanation of political action  New institutionalists have been united on the importance of institutions and in the rejection of behaviourism  Rational choice institutionalists brought the state back in as a way of explaining outcomes that could not be explained by universal theories of rational action without reference to institutional context  In American politics, rational choice institutionalists analyses are found in principle-agent theories of how principals maintain control or gain compliance from the agents to which they delegate power  In comparative politics rational choice institutionalists consider delegation between European Union institutional actors  And the collective decision making traps in Europe while in international relations they examine delegation in international organizations or use a game theoretic approach to democratic transitions  Most part it cannot explain these anomalies if they depart radically from interest-motivated action  Because of rational choice institutionalism’s very deductiveness, along with a theoretical generality that starts from universal claims about rationality, rational choice institutionalism as difficulty explaining any one individual’s reasons for action within a given context or any particular set of real political events  The rational choice institutionalist approach is also often highly functionalist because it tends to explain the origins of an institution largely in terms of its effects; highly intentionalist because it assumes that rational actors not only perceive the effects of the institutions that affect them but can also create and control them; and highly voluntarist because they see institutional creation as a quasi-contractual process rather than affected by asymmetries of power  Rational choice institutionalist explanation is static  Rational choice institutionalists emphasis on the self-interested nature of human motivation, especially where it is assumed to be economic self-interest, is value laden and can appear economically deterministic  Historical institutionalism is arguably the institutionalism most influenced by the old institutionalism as well as by political system approaches, both structural-functional and Marxian approaches  Historical institutionalism unlike rational choice instittuionlism, focuses most explicitly on the state and its institutional development with the state just as problematic as the action within it  Historical institutionalism works best at delineating the origins and development of institutional structures and processes over time  It emphasizes not just the asymmetries of power related to the operation and development of institutions but also the path-dependencies and unintended consequences that result from such historical development  Historical institutionalism tends to be less universalistic in its generalizations and more mid- range in its theory building by focusing on changes in a limited number of countries unified in space and or tie or on a specific kind of phenomenon that occurs in or affects a range
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