Political Creativity: Reconfiguring Institutional Order and Change

Political Creativity: Reconfiguring Institutional Order and Change

Political Creativity: Reconfiguring Institutional Order and Change

Political Creativity: Reconfiguring Institutional Order and Change


Political Creativity intervenes in the lively debate currently underway in the social sciences on institutional change. Editors Gerald Berk, Dennis C. Galvan, and Victoria Hattam, along with the contributors to the volume, show how institutions inevitably combine order and change, because formal rules and roles are always available for reconfiguration. Creative action is not the exception but the very process through which all political formations are built, promulgated and changed.

Drawing on the rich cache of antidualist theoretical traditions, from poststructuralism and ecological theory to constructivism and pragmatism, a diverse group of scholars probes acts of social innovation in many locations: land boards in Botswana, Russian labor relations, international statistics, global supply chains, Islamic economics in Algeria, Islamic sects and state authority in Senegal, and civil rights reform, colonization, industrial policy, and political consulting in the United States. These political scientists reconceptualize agency as a relational process that continually reorders the nature and meaning of people and things, order as an assemblage that necessitates creative tinkering and interpretation, and change as the unruly politics of time that confounds the conventional ordering of past, present, and future. Political Creativity offers analytical tools for reimagining order and change as entangled processes.

Contributors: Stephen Amberg, Chris Ansell, Gerald Berk, Kevin Bruyneel, Dennis C. Galvan, Deborah Harrold, Victoria Hattam, Yoshiko M. Herrera, Gary Herrigel, Joseph Lowndes, Ato Kwamena Onoma, Adam Sheingate, Rudra Sil, Ulrich Voskamp, Volker Wittke.


The game’s afoot in institutionalist research. As institutionalists grapple with change, diversity, innovation, indeterminacy, creativity, and surprising assemblages of institutional artifacts, some have come to question the implicit structuralist foundations of their research and turned elsewhere for help. The catalog is big and growing. Among other traditions, institutionalists have turned to social studies of science, action theory, ecology, narrative knowing, poststructuralism, constructivism, postcolonialism, pragmatism, theories of entrepreneurship, religious studies, and economic anthropology. This volume assembles a group of political scientists, whose only obvious commonality is their restlessness with structuralism and their commitment to alternative intellectual traditions to animate their research. By gathering this heterogeneous body of work together, we hope to shift these alternative traditions from the margins to the center of the discipline and in doing so advance a positive research agenda. The contributors work on a wide range of empirical problems—from unions in Russia, Islamist economics, and global supply chains to industrial policy, political consulting, and civil rights in the United States—and draw on many different theoretical traditions to analyze the cases at hand. Despite our apparent differences, we share a common project: to reconstruct institutionalism so it can better inquire into the genuine “mangle,” as we call it, of human creativity, surprising assemblages, and political possibilities we see in our research.

Although we share the recent interest in institutional change, the work represented in this volume should not be confused with the recent efforts to theorize change, which retain the false duality of structure and agency. Whereas those projects seek to soften the distinction between institutional structure and human agency with concepts like “layering” or “ambiguity,”

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