International Handbook on Informal Governance
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International Handbook on Informal Governance

Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Christine Neuhold

Acknowledging that governance relies not only on formal rules and institutions but to a significant degree also on informal practices and arrangements, this unique Handbook examines and analyses a wide variety of theoretical, conceptual and normative perspectives on informal governance.
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Chapter 17: Formal and Informal Institutions in the EU’s Legislative Process

Adrienne Héritier


Adrienne Héritier INTRODUCTION Institutions as rules of behavior, both formal and informal, abound in politics. We are expected to abide by these written as well as unwritten rules. Why are informal rules ubiquitous, and what difference do they make in political decision-making as regards not only the outcomes of the process, but also the formal power of the actors that are involved in political decision-making? This chapter focuses on informal institutions and their relationship to formal institutions in European legislation under codecision. It asks why informal institutions emerge in the first place, why there are sustained or not, why they may change and which power shifts they may imply. The chapter is organized as follows. The next section presents a definition of the concept of formal and informal institutional rules. The following section theorizes the emergence of informal institutional rules and the conditions of their continued existence, change or disappearance. A particular emphasis is put on the relationship of informal to formal institutional rules. It also addresses the question of what difference informal institutional rules may make as regards the distribution of decision-making power. The penultimate section illustrates the theoretical arguments of emergence, change and impact with a concrete example of informal institutional change which fed back into formal institutional change in European decision-making: European legislation under codecision. A final section concludes. DEFININING ‘INFORMAL INSTITUTIONS’ Institution or institutional rule as used in this chapter is defined as an actor-created rule of behavior, restricting and enabling actors’ interactions (North 1990a,...

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