Institutions Count: Their Role and Significance in Latin American Development

Institutions Count: Their Role and Significance in Latin American Development

Institutions Count: Their Role and Significance in Latin American Development

Institutions Count: Their Role and Significance in Latin American Development

Synopsis

What leads to national progress? The growing consensus in the social sciences is that neither capital flows, nor the savings rate, nor diffuse values are the key, but that it lies in the quality of a nation's institutions. This book is the first comparative study of how real institutions affect national development. It seeks to examine and deepen this insight through a systematic study of institutions in five Latin American countries and how they differ within and across nations. Postal systems, stock exchanges, public health services and others were included in the sample, all studied with the same methodology. The country chapters present detailed results of this empirical exercise for each individual country. The introductory chapters present the theoretical framework and research methodology for the full study. The summary results of this ambitious study presented in the concluding chapter draw comparisons across countries and discuss what these results mean for national development in Latin America.

Excerpt

The idea for the study that gave rise to this book came from a graduate seminar in economic sociology and a series of conversations with colleagues and students at Princeton University about the rise of the “new institutionalism” in economics and sociology. Several articles by Peter Evans of the University of California, Berkeley, about the “institutional turn” in the field of development were also influential in calling attention to the need for new empirical studies concerning what this “turn” meant in reality.

While the decision of several prominent economists to abandon conventional wisdom about determinants of development in favor of privileging the role of institutions was a welcome event, a sense of incompleteness still lingered. The definition of institutions raised in these economic discussions was vague, to say the least, encompassing a variety of distinct elements of social life. In some analyses, institutions were defined as akin to norms; in others, they were assimilated to the concept of values; and in still others, they were synonymous with organizations. This theoretical disorder made it impossible to gain a firm grip on the actual role played by institutions in processes of national development. If they were to encompass each and all relevant elements of society, the argument that they “matter” would become a tautology.

Accordingly, the first task was to try to put some order in this conceptual scenario by arriving at a tight, limited, and measurable definition of institutions, separating it, at the same time, from other distinct elements of culture and social structure. Results of this exercise led to the theoretical framework presented in chapter 1. It draws on the classic literature in sociology and social psychology to arrive at a schematic representation of the various elements of culture and social . . .

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