Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy

Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy

Agile Decision-Making in a Turbulent World

Graham Room

Graham Room argues that conventional approaches to the conceptualisation and measurement of social and economic change are unsatisfactory. As a result, researchers are ill-equipped to offer policy advice. This book offers a new analytical approach, combining complexity science and institutionalism.

Chapter 6: Institutional Dynamics

Graham Room

Subjects: economics and finance, institutional economics, innovation and technology, innovation policy, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy


6.1 INTRODUCTION The previous chapter examined the alternative institutional settings that operate on the various social terrains through which life chances, power and advantage are distributed. It considered how these are connected into complex institutional architectures, across which social actors pursue their purposes. These were the elements and connections in our combinatorial ontology of institutions. The present chapter is concerned with how these combinations evolve: the ‘micro-meso-macro’ or ‘deepen-widen-warp’ of institutional change. We draw heavily on the work of Thelen, Pierson and Fligstein. We start, however, with Crouch, who in his study Capitalist Diversity and Change (2005) develops an account of entrepreneurs that nicely complements that of Potts, but applied now to institutions. 6.2 INSTITUTIONAL ENTREPRENEURS In the previous chapter we saw that theorists have tried to make sense of the wide diversity of institutions to be found in human societies. We highlighted in particular the ‘mutual adjustment’ of markets, ‘hierarchical direction’ and ‘negotiated moral communities’. These are of course ideal types, abstracting from the messiness of the real world by reference to the theoretical debates that are underway. There is, however, always the danger that such ideal types will be too easily equated to empirical reality. If such an equation is made, suggesting that no intermediate cases exist and that there are strong pressures for societies to move towards one or other of these ‘poles’, this must be demonstrated and not merely assumed. Crouch challenges any such assumption. His principal target is the ‘varieties of capitalism’ literature and its...

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