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60 World Pol. 281 (2007-2008)
Toward a New Theory of Institutional Change

handle is hein.journals/wpot60 and id is 303 raw text is: 


      TOWARD A NEW THEORY OF

         INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

                         By KURT   WEYLAND*



THERE has been a great disjuncture between political science and
    political reality in the last two  decades. Whereas many political
scientists have  embraced   institutionalism,  highlighting  the  stability
and  persistence of political patterns  and  stressing the inertial forces
in institutional change,  the political world  has  simultaneously  expe-
rienced waves   of profound   transformation   and  stunning   changes  of
trajectory-the  advance  of democracy,   the fall of communism,   and  the
adoption  of market reforms  in large numbers  of countries. Few  if any of
these striking departures were  foreseen by political science.' This weak
record suggests  the need  to rethink institutionalist approaches,  whose
static and linear assumptions  make  it difficult to account for profound
political change.
  The  revival of institutionalism has certainly spawned   a host of fruit-
fil efforts to analyze the creation, maintenance,  and change   of institu-
tions, a growing  interest that has produced   many  important   scholarly
contributions. But  institutionalism also suffers from significant limita-
tions. While  coming   in different versions,2 it derives primarily  from
static and linear premises. Institutionalism has  emphasized   inertia and
persistence and  conceptualized   institutional change  as a more  or less
steady path  along  a predefined  trajectory. To the  extent that institu-
tions matter, they by  their nature exert stickiness and  guarantee  some

   * I thank Isabela Mares for suggesting that I generalize from my earlier work and write this article.
I am grateful to Catherine Boone, Kenneth Greene, Wendy Hunter, William Hurst, Patricia Mac-
Lachlan, Rose McDermott, Rafl Madrid, and three anonymous reviewers for excellent comments
on earlier versions, and to the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of
Texas at Austin for its continuing support for my research.
   ' Even a very astute, perceptive institutionalist such as Samuel Huntington believed in 1984, im-
mediately before the fall of communism, that the likelihood of democratic development in Eastern
Europe is virtually nil; Huntington, Will More Countries Become Democratic? Political Science
Quarterly 99 (Summer 1984), 217. On the low success rate of expert predictions, see the thorough
analysis by Philip Tetlock, Expert PoliticalJudgment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).
   2 Peter Hall and Rosemary Taylor, Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms, Politi-
cal Studies 44 (December 1996); Ira Katznelson and Barry Weingast, eds., Preferences and Situations
(New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2005).


World Politics 60 (January 2008), 281-314

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