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Why has voter turnout declined in democracies all over the world? This article draws on findings from microlevel studies and theorizes two explanations: generational change and a rise in the number of elective institutions. The empirical section tests these hypotheses along with other explanations proposed in the literature—shifts in party/candidate competition, voting-age reform, weakening group mobilization, income inequality, and economic globalization. The authors conduct two analyses. The first analysis employs an original data set covering all post-1945 democratic national elections. The second studies individual-level data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems and British, Canadian, and US national election studies. The results strongly support the generational change and elective institutions hypotheses, which account for most of the decline in voter turnout. These findings have important implications for a better understanding of the current transformations of representative democracy and the challenges it faces.
This article examines the instrumentalization of women's rights and the transformation of the gender rights regime in the context of democratic backsliding in Turkey. I show how the Islamically rooted Justice and Development Party governments and their allies used women's rights in constructing authoritarian rule and promoting a conservative gender agenda. The governing elites had different needs at different political stages and instrumentalized women's rights to meet those needs. First, they needed to legitimize their rule in a secular context, so they expanded liberal laws on women's rights. Second, in the process of backsliding, they sought to construct and legitimize their conservative ideology, so they reinterpreted existing laws to promote conservative goals. Finally, they wanted to mobilize conservative women in support of the newly authoritarian regime, so they built new institutions and marginalized existing women's NGOs. The article contributes to the literature on regime types and gender rights by shifting the focus from regime type to regime change.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is expanding its organizational infrastructure in the private sector, revealing the dynamics of CCP-style institutional change. Party building follows a distinct version of adaptive governance. Hesitant to rely on innovative tools alone, organizers productively tinker with traditional and disparate elements. Grassroots Party organs, sanctified by their venerable history, are redeployed – initially for modest purposes that fall short of their original revolutionary potential. The Party's surge in private-sector firms was triggered by technocrats overhauling Leninist systems to reconnect to Party members; the search for a broader mission came later. To empower CCP organs in companies, organizers use tactical precedents ranging from incentives to negotiations around Party financing, and membership discipline. Combining tactics from different eras, overseas Party building deploys old organizational arrangements to new ends, whereas digitization gives time-worn procedures a second life. The inclination for institutional bricolage is a deeply rooted hallmark of innovation in Chinese statecraft.
Institutional inertia as one of the underlying reasons for hysteresis is often ascribed to external factors such as the distribution of wealth and income. Complementing these findings, the paper focuses on important internal factors, which render institutions stable and which prevent fast institutional changes, namely the role of mental models. Their importance is derived from the analysis of an important set of institutions, which can be described as enabling rules. Such rules enable actors to do certain things, such as speaking a language or playing chess. In doing so, enabling rules arguably require complementary mental models, which contain not only knowledge about the rules and the context in which they are applied, but also about how to apply the rules successfully. An important implication of this conceptualisation is that institutions and their representation are interdependent and mutually stabilising.
Socio-natural disasters remain underexplored events in economic history, even though they stress societies in several ways and are known for their relationship with institutional change. In this paper, we explore this issue showing that major earthquakes in Chile have become a window of opportunity for important fiscal reforms. Our findings indicate that there are two mechanisms to explain this relationship: first, reconstruction demands greater state expenditure and intervention; and second, the emergence of narratives that justify these reforms, such as patriotism and solidarity. However, data show that in the case of Chile, changes following disasters have had little impact on the overall tax structure of the country, and the historical preference for indirect taxes has been maintained, with limited power to impose taxes on high-income groups.
This article illustrates how the term “social innovation” is used in the public policy domain in Hong Kong in relation to the new public management (NPM) reform of the social service sector, which originated in the early 2000s. Through document reviews and interviews, the role that social innovation policy has played in instigating changes in the contemporary social service field in the post-NPM era is identified. This includes facilitating emergence of “new” forms of social entrepreneurial activities to fill unmet social needs, empowering new actors in entering the social service sector, and reinforcing the government’s position in the NPM reform. Adopting historical institutionalism as the analytical framework, multiple path-dependent characteristics arising from the historical legacies of the incumbent social service environment – such as the longstanding partnership between the state and non-profits – are highlighted. These historical factors have weakened the efficacy of the policy efforts aimed at enacting institutional change. Overall, this article demonstrates how historical context matters in the emergence and framing of social innovation policy. It contributes to the theorisation of the role of social innovation in social service sector development in East Asia.
Local Content and Sustainable Development in Global Energy Markets analyses the topical and contentious issue of the critical intersections between local content requirements (LCRs) and the implementation of sustainable development treaties in global energy markets including Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America, South America, Australasia and the Middle East While LCRs generally aim to boost domestic value creation and economic growth, inappropriately designed LCRs could produce negative social, human rights and environmental outcomes, and a misalignment of a country's fiscal policies and global sustainable development goals. These unintended outcomes may ultimately serve as disincentive to foreign participation in a country's energy market. This book outlines the guiding principles of a sustainable and rights-based approach – focusing on transparency, accountability, gender justice and other human rights issues – to the design, application and implementation of LCRs in global energy markets to avoid misalignments.
Historical change is often driven by demands for inclusion by previously marginalized groups. Latin America’s most recent inclusionary turn was characterized by an emphasis on constitutionalism, an explosion of popular participation, and a commitment to social policies that empowered and lifted millions of people out of poverty. Practices of citizenship were at the heart of these struggles for inclusion. Yet failure to ratchet-up citizenship rights leaves the region vulnerable to the undoing of inclusionary reforms, and thus a return to exclusion, repression, and democratic backsliding. To trace the evolution of inclusion in the region, and to better understand how cycles of inclusion and exclusion have often eroded state capacity, this chapter outlines political logics of inclusion, describes how these logics have changed over historical periods, analyzes the structural-historical conditions that shape whether inclusion threatens the interests of powerful actors, sketches alternative pathways to inclusion, and discusses inclusionary outcomes and the unfinished business of building a citizens’ democracy. It compares cases varying along two dimensions: changes in the types of inclusion over time and differences in pathways to inclusion across the region. The breadth of the comparison brings structural-historical factors back into focus, without denying the importance of political institutions.
The government in British-ruled India established cooperative banks to compete with private moneylenders in the rural credit market. State officials expected greater competition to increase the supply of low-cost credit, thereby expanding investment potential for the rural poor. Cooperatives did increase credit supply but captured a small share of the credit market and reported net losses throughout the late colonial and early postcolonial period. The article asks why this experiment did not succeed and offers two explanations. First, low savings restricted the role of social capital and mutual supervision as methods of financial regulation in the cooperative sector. Second, a political-economic ideology that privileged equity over efficiency made for weak administrative regulation.
Institutions are failing in many areas of contemporary politics, not least of which concerns climate change. However, remedying such problems is not straightforward. Pursuing institutional improvement is an intensely political process, playing out over extended timeframes, and intricately tied to existing setups. Such activities are open-ended, and outcomes are often provisional and indeterminate. The question of institutional improvement, therefore, centers on understanding how institutions are (re)made within complex settings. This Element develops an original analytical foundation for studying institutional remaking and its political dynamics. It explains how institutional remaking can be observed and provides a typology comprising five areas of institutional production involved in institutional remaking (Novelty, Uptake, Dismantling, Stability, Interplay). This opens up a new research agenda on the politics of responding to institutional breakdown, and brings sustainability scholarship into closer dialogue with scholarship on processes of institutional change and development. Also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
As part of the roundtable “International Institutions and Peaceful Change,” this essay focuses on the “Kindleberger trap,” a term coined by Joseph Nye Jr. referring to the situation in which no country takes the lead to maintain international institutions in the international system. President Trump's destructive policies toward many international institutions seem to push the current international order to the brink of the Kindleberger trap. Ironically, China has pledged, at least rhetorically, to support and even save these existing international institutions. Based on an institutional-balancing perspective, we suggest that the worry about the Kindleberger trap is unwarranted because the international institutional order will not easily collapse after the decline of U.S. hegemony. Institutional competition among great powers and institutional changes within the institutional order have become two remedies to maintain international institutions and to avoid the Kindleberger trap during the international order transition. What states, including the United States and China, should do is to reembrace and reinvigorate the role of multilateralism in world politics so that the dynamics of institutional balancing and consequential institutional changes in the context of U.S.-China competition do not deprive international society of the public goods and normative values of international institutions. The future international order should not be led by a single country, but by dynamic and balanced international institutions.
Between 1985 and 2018, Brazilian economic well-being stagnated, with lackluster growth and regressive public policies destroying citizens’ life opportunities. There is considerable consensus about the sources of this low-level economic equilibrium, including low savings, low investment, and modest human capital improvements. Despite this consensus, and despite decades of reform, however, the overall institutional equilibrium changed only marginally. Drawing on the study of varieties of capitalism, this chapter describes how institutional complementarities drove actors’ incentives toward a collectively suboptimal equilibrium. Complementarities within and across five domains sustained the equilibrium: 1) the macroeconomy of a middle-income developmental state, 2) the microeconomy of firm organization; 3) the coalitional presidential political system; 4) the weak control mechanisms this political system set in place; and 5) an autonomous bureaucracy that permitted incremental reform but in consequence, may have moderated demands for more dramatic reforms while deepening fiscal constraints and impelling policymakers to preserve the tool kit of the developmental state.
Chapter 2 introduces a two-stage theory of institutional continuity and reform, laying out how societal preferences over the distribution of protection and repression shape politicians’ decisions between the status quo of authoritarian coercion and reform to promote democratic coercion. Far from constituting a failure of democratic processes, politicians’ decisions to either maintain the status quo of authoritarian coercion or undertake police reform both result from ordinary democratic politics. I argue that, even under the constraints posed by the structural power of police, shifts in the convergence of societal preferences over policing and security and a robust political opposition can serve as key drivers of reform by raising the costs to the incumbent of not reforming the police. The theory yields two key predictions. When societal preferences over policing and security are fragmented, politicians have incentives to pursue accommodation with the police, wherein they grant police greater autonomy in exchange for cooperation in the selective distribution of coercion. This favors the persistence of institutional weakness and authoritarian patterns of coercion. On the other hand, incumbents are likely to pursue democratic police reform when societal preferences converge and when they face an electoral threat from a robust political opposition.
Because gender equality actors rarely have sufficient power to create new institutions, this article asks how they can achieve positive gender change in constrained circumstances when the creation of new rules is not possible. Building on a feminist institutionalist approach to analyzing gendered institutional dynamics, power, and resistance, we open the “black box” of one executive: Michelle Bachelet’s first presidency in Chile (2006–10). Using theory-guided process tracing and primarily qualitative data, we examine key reforms in three policy areas—health, pensions, and childcare—that were central to Bachelet’s first program. By analyzing how efforts to incorporate positive gender change fared differently in each area, this study shows how far utilizing, subverting, or converting existing rules—more “hidden” forms of change, often away from legislatures—can be effective, if limited, strategies when gender equality advocates face resistance.
This article analyses the inherent conflict between public and private interest from a long time-perspective, using the example of Sweden from 1620 to 2000. The main argument is that there have been two equally decisive historical shifts in the political discourse on how to organize public services in the past: First, a shift from an early modern patriarchal discourse to a more expansive articulation of publicness during the nineteenth century. Second, a shift toward privatization and deregulation in the late twentieth century. Both these shifts must be considered to fully explain the changing forms of public organization up to the present day. Theoretically, the concept of “publicness” is used to explain the political discourses on the organization of public services. Drawing on three discursive chains, the argument is that the political development was affected by the politicians’ conception of the political community, the form of organization, and by perceptions of values such as equal access and modernity. Our results demonstrate how and why political arguments for or against private service providers have motivated profound changes in the way public services are perceived of and organized.
In the last 30 years, Local Governments all over Europe experienced an intense season of institutional change of unprecedented width and intensity. This paper focuses on a neglected type of institutional change, a more indirect one – here labeled oblique-change – that however strongly influences the overall LG institutional change and local autonomy. Taking 2012 as the climax of the austerity period in Europe and Italy as a pilot case for future comparisons, this article shows that oblique-change matters to a considerable extent, and that it is much more frequent and highly impacting than expected. Moreover, it argues that bradyseismic adjustments provoked by oblique-change may turn out in an equally profound change of the local government's asset, as that induced by major reforms.
The selection process leading to the appointment of Antonio Guterres as Secretary-General of the United Nations gave way to unprecedented practices in world politics, such as public hearings with candidates. A textbook case of what historical institutionalism calls “layering,” this episode of institutional development features intriguing puzzles, including its timing, form, and limits. Drawing on historical institutionalism and practice theory, I develop a “pulling” theory of agency that complements intentionalist accounts. The webs of practices that agents find themselves in afford certain actions over others, orienting the push of interests. I infer three mechanisms—relational crossover, competence transfers, and pushback—and show how a set of nine practices, available at the UN in 2015–2016 but not in earlier episodes, account for the specifics of the recent renewal of the Secretary-General's selection procedure. A full explanation of this critical case of institutional change is impossible without understanding how agents struggled with one another under the pull of the UN web of practices, affording some innovations but not others.
As emerging powers rise and established powers decline, international institutions come under pressure to adjust to new power realities. When and how do international institutions adapt to underlying global power shifts? We propose an (institutionalist) theory of strategic co-optation that differs from both (realist) accommodationist and (liberal) integrationist theories. Drawing on isolated treatments of strategic co-optation from other domains – domestic and international, autocratic and democratic, past and present – we develop a theory of strategic co-optation as a mode of institutional adaption to shifts in the global distribution of power. The theory specifies the concept, the conditions and the (unintended) consequences of strategic co-optation. We conceptualize co-optation as a specific form of adaptation where established powers trade institutional privileges for emerging powers' institutional support. We theorize the conditions under which emerging and established powers are (more or less) likely to strike a co-optation deal. In addition, we identify endogenous dynamics that may render co-optation precarious and thus subject to instabilities. While the ambition of this paper is primarily theoretical, we provide various empirical illustrations of how strategic co-optation is used to adapt international institutions to contemporary shifts in the global distribution of power.
Since the early discussions of polycentricity, the concept (and variations such as polycentric political systems, polycentric governance, polycentric order, etc.) has seen the development of numerous permutations, digressions, and contradictions. This chapter is meant to carefully step through key notions tied to polycentricity and polycentric governance. The chapter’s purpose is to discuss polycentric governance in particular, while giving some attention to polycentricity as a term from which polycentric governance originates. We build upon the classic version of polycentric governance as a 'polycentric political system', link this concept with broader conceptualizations of polycentricity, and survey the related ideas that have been investigated around the concepts of polycentric political systems, polycentric order, polycentric governance, and polycentric arrangements.
Polycentric governance has emergent properties that we argue can be explained through an analysis of the dynamics of institutional change. In this chapter, we use institutional change theories and evolutionary and complex adaptive systems (CAS) thinking to trace mechanisms observed in the change and emergence of polycentric governance. We offer an explanatory model of how polycentric governance changes. Particularly, we consider institutional change of polycentric governance to be negotiated in interdependent (networks of) action situations. Change (or emergence) of governance is the result of endogenous changes (e.g. in power resources actors hold) and/ or of exogenous drivers such as technological change. Polycentric governance shares characteristics with Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) whose change is evolutionary. We highlight the particular difficulties this perspective entails for assessing institutional performance. We illustrate the evolution of polycentric governance arrangements through two vignettes summarizing case study material from Kenya and Mexico.