The new economic institutionalism in historical perspective

Authored by: Margaret Levi , Victor Menaldo

Routledge Handbook of Comparative Political Institutions

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415630887
eBook ISBN: 9781315731377
Adobe ISBN: 9781317551799


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The new institutionalism arose in the 1980s, more than thirty years ago, in reaction to narrowly individualistic approaches in economics, political science, and sociology. Behavioralists and conventional neo-classical economics “interpreted collective political and economic behavior as the aggregate consequence of individual choice…[and] viewed institutions as epiphenomenal, merely the sum of individual level properties” (Powell and Dimaggio 1991: 2). The new institutionalists, building on a long tradition, claim that rules, norms, and customs—often arbitrary and artificial—structure human interaction, and they use institutionalist approaches to explain major macro-outcomes and long-term secular change.

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