Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe - Vol. 1

By Jan Zielonka | Go to book overview

1 Institutional Engineering and Transition to Democracy

Klaus von Beyme

The enlightened neo-institutionalism of the 1980s brought institutions back into political science. Institutionalism or 'Grandpa's political science' had been supplanted by the competing paradigms of behaviouralism and neo-Marxism. These bitter enemies agreed on one point: institutions are only a framework to study the behaviour of actors. Yet even the neo-institutionalists still conceived of institutions in a rather instrumental way, as channels for political actors. 1

It was left to the palaeo-institutionalists to reintroduce holistic considerations of institutional engineering. 'Grandpa's political science', with its tired discussions of the virtues of parliamentary or presidential government, enjoyed a renaissance. Some of these palaeo-institutionalists, such as the Italian Giovanni Sartori, belonged to the conservative resistance against the 'behavioural revolt'. They had long defended the study of politics as such against the creeping sociologization of political science. In France it was unnecessary to 'defend politics', since the institutionalist bias of political science there had never been abandoned. The consequences of the neglect of institutions in political science were clearest in Germany. In the 1960s, when Germany pondered the introduction of a British-style plurality electoral law, the electoral commission included three social scientists. By the 1970s, in the Enquete-commission for constitutional reform, only one political scientist was represented. Political science had left constitutional engineering to lawyers.

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