The New Institutional Politics: Performance and Outcomes

The New Institutional Politics: Performance and Outcomes

The New Institutional Politics: Performance and Outcomes

The New Institutional Politics: Performance and Outcomes


The New Institutional Politics is a comparative study of the impact of political institutions upon outcomes, and covers some of the major themes in the new institutionalism. It looks at how various democratic institutions like Konkordanzdemokratie or corporatism promote better outcomes than Westminster institutions. The evaluation of the performance of political institutions covers the executive, the legislature and the judicial system. The book also looks at economic outcomes such as affluence and GDP growth as well as social ones like income distribution and quality of life. It examines the problems of institutional effects in democracies and dictatorships and provides analysis of some of the major models in political science. This is an exploration of how political institutions matter for political, economic and social outcomes. It estimates their impact in relation to other major factors such as culture and social structure. It is written for political scientists and graduates studying comparative politics.


The origins of this book are to be found in a few separate papers that were published some years ago. First, there is a short article that one of the authors published in 1993 in a Festschrift to Gunnar Sjöblom, long-time Swedish professor in political science at the University of Copenhagen: ‘Opportunistic behaviour and institutions’ (in Bryder, T. (ed.) Party Systems, Party Behaviour and Democracy: scripta in honorem professoris Gunnar Sjöblom sexagesimum annum complements, University of Copenhagen; Institute of Political Science, pp. 51-71). It is reprinted here in a revised version in Chapter 2.

This paper posed the question whether political institutions could restrain the negative impact of opportunistic behaviour, but it did not answer it, as that would require a vast empirical investigation. We went on to investigate whether federalist institutions matter in the paper ‘Is federalism superior?’ (in Steunenberg, B. and van Vught, F. (eds) (1997) Political Institutions and Public Policy: perspectives on European decision making, Dordrecht: Kluwer, pp. 85-113). There we saw the relevance of comparative institutional analysis, both for the new institutionalism and for the analysis of macro level politics; these findings constitute Chapter 4.

The analysis of the relationship between institutions and outcomes proved interesting, so that one of the authors suggested that we examine the institutions of Konkordanz as well as those of corporatism. The outcome was the paper ‘The institutions of Konkordanz and Corporatism: how closely are they connected?’ Swiss Political Science Review 3, 1997, 5-29. We have drawn upon this paper in Chapter 11.

At the end of the day, we decided to engage in a major empirical effort to map institutional performance and establish the occurrence of institutional effects. It seemed to us that for the purposes of empirical analysis we could arrange institutional theory at the macro level around three major theoretical approaches: Montesquieu, Lijphart and Friedman.

Before we arrived at that conclusion we had to clarify where we stood on some difficult questions in neo-institutionalism, especially the meaning and reference of ‘institution’. We decided to link up our investigations about the outcomes of institutions with the rational choice understanding of an institution as a rule or a norm that is backed by sanctions of some sort.

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