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Institutions and Institutionalism II: Political Perspectives



Aims and objectives: The students will acquire knowledge of how political science has dealt with political institutions in the past, and how it deals with institutions in the present, and what this means for the explanation of persistence and change in the political world.

Content: In this course we will look at the analysis of institutions from the perspective of political science, focusing in particular on the development of different approaches over time. Among the key issues to be addressed are the differences between traditional or ‘old’ institutionalism, on the one hand, and the more contemporary or ‘new’ institutionalism, on the other. Some decades ago, a somewhat formal and legalistic approach to institutions was one of the dominant elements in political science, and it was in the context of this approach that some of the classic texts of the discipline were written. This approach was then challenged by the growing appeal of behaviouralism, which itself was eventually challenged by what we now call the new institutionalism. In this course we will look at these shifts, and we will try to understand why the old institutionalism was deemed inadequate, and why the new institutionalism was seen as a necessary corrective to the commonly accepted behaviouralist and rational choice assumptions. We will also look at how concern has shifted from explaining institutions to explaining their effects.

Methods of Instruction

Seminar discussions

Study material



Final paper, reaction papers and class participation


Tuesday 31 March & 7 April, 15.00-17.00 hrs in 1A12
Tuesday 14 April until 19 May, 15.00-17.00 hrs in 5A23
Monday 4 May, 13.00-15.00 hrs in 5A23
Tuesday 26 May, 10.00-15.00 hrs in SA35 (presentations)