Explaining Institutional Change

In Harold Kincaid & Jeroen Van Bouwel (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Political Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 120-138 (forthcoming)
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In this Chapter, we address the challenge of explaining institutional change, asking whether the much-criticized rational choice perspective can contribute to the understanding of institutional change in political science. We discuss the methodological reasons why rational choice institutionalism (RCI) often assumes that institutional change is exogenous and discontinuous. We then identify and explore the possible pathways along which RCI can be extended to be more useful in understanding institutional change in political science. Finally, we reflect on what RCI theorizing would look like if it started to take endogenous change seriously: by giving up some of its simplifying assumptions, RCI can be a useful tool for analyzing institutional change, but choosing this path has consequences for the generality of the models in RCI as well as for the style of its theorizing.

Author Profiles

N. Emrah Aydinonat
University of Helsinki
Petri Ylikoski
University of Helsinki


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