Short note on 'New Institutionalism' | IGNOU BPSC-105 Assignment solution (2021-2022)

 New institutionalism or neo-institutionalism is an approach to the study of institutions that focuses on the constraining and enabling effects of formal and informal rules on the behavior of  individuals and groups. New institutionalism originated in work by sociologist John Meyer  published in 1977. 

Streams of Neoinstitutionalism: One of the reasons that there is no single agreed-on definition of a  political institution is that the neoinstitutionalist approach encompasses a wide variety of  complementary, but clearly different, methodologies. There are at least three branches of  neoinstitutionalism: rational choice institutionalism, sociological institutionalism, and historical  institutionalism. 

Rational choice institutionalism: Rational choice institutionalism, which has its roots in economics  and organizational theory, examines institutions as systems of rules and incentives. Rules are  contested so that one group of political actors can gain leverage over another. Political decision  making is explained through modeling assumptions and game theory, as challengers and holders of  political power pit themselves against one another. Thus, rational choice scholars often focus on a  single institution in a specific time frame, although some look at institutions across time.

Sociological institutionalism: This stream, which has its roots in sociology, organizational theory, anthropology, and cultural studies, stresses the idea of institutional cultures. Scholars of this stream  view institutional rules, norms, and structures not as inherently rational or dictated by efficiency concerns but instead as culturally constructed. They tend to look at the role of myth and ceremony in  creating institutional cultures, as well as the role of symbol systems, cognitive scripts, and moral  templates. At times they take on a normative (usual and customary) approach to the study of political  institutions, and they tend to blur the line between institutions and culture. Their work often focuses  on questions of the social and cultural legitimacy of the organization and its participants.

Historical institutionalism: Historical institutionalism is the hardest of the three streams to define  because it includes so many different scholars and so many different methodological approaches. It is  based on the assumption that institutional rules, constraints, and the responses to them over the long  term guide the behaviour of political actors during the policy-making process. Historical institutionalism mixes the quantitative analysis of the rational choice stream with the idea and culture-based thought of the sociological stream. It includes an eclectic group of scholars with a wide  variety of research agendas. Despite the differences, there are some common notions in this line of research. Historical  institutionalists seek to define and explain specific real-world political outcomes, such as an election,using the historical legacy of institutional structures and feedbacks available to them. They also view politics as a competition over scarce resources and highlight differences in political power between  institutions, such as between the courts and the legislature. They consider decision trees and path  dependence, terms of art meaning the effects that one decision has to limit the available future choices for any political actor or institution. Historical institutionalists note that institutions do not perform  with perfect efficiency (because they were designed in earlier times) and institutional rules (such as  the insistence on supermajorities or unanimity in voting) are slow to change, and, thus, those factors  must be taken into account in any analysis.


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