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Analysts and policymakers often decry the failure of institutions to accomplish their stated purpose. Bringing together leading scholars of Latin American politics, this volume helps us understand why. The volume offers a conceptual and theoretical framework for studying weak institutions. It introduces different dimensions of institutional weakness and explores the origins and consequences of that weakness. Drawing on recent research on constitutional and electoral reform, executive–legislative relations, property rights, environmental and labor regulation, indigenous rights, squatters and street vendors, and anti-domestic violence laws in Latin America, the volume's chapters show us that politicians often design institutions that they cannot or do not want to enforce or comply with. Challenging existing theories of institutional design, the volume helps us understand the logic that drives the creation of weak institutions, as well as the conditions under which they may be transformed into institutions that matter.
This Element introduces the concept of institutional weakness, arguing that weakness or strength is a function of the extent to which an institution actually matters to social, economic or political outcomes. It then presents a typology of three forms of institutional weakness: insignificance, in which rules are complied with but do not affect the way actors behave; non-compliance, in which state elites either choose not to enforce the rules or fail to gain societal cooperation with them; and instability, in which the rules are changed at an unusually high rate. The Element then examines the sources of institutional weakness.