Elaborating the "New Institutionalism"
This paper gives a shorthand account of the approach of new institutionalism, illuminating its view of political institutions as endogenous and self-containing to explain political performance and change.
James G. March & Johan P. Olsen
To sketch an institutional approach, this paper elaborates ideas presented over 20 years ago in The New Institutionalism: Organizational Factors in Political Life (March and Olsen 1984).
Institutionalism, as that term is used here, connotes a general approach to the study of political institutions, a set of theoretical ideas and hypotheses concerning the relations between institutional characteristics and political agency, performance and change. Institutionalism emphasizes the endogenous nature and social construction of political institutions. Institutions are not simply equilibrium contracts among self-seeking, calculating individual actors or arenas for contending social forces. They are collections of structures, rules and standard operating procedures that have a partly autonomous role in political life.
The paper ends with raising some research questions at the frontier of institutional studies.
A later version of this paper was published in R. A. W. Rhodes, Sarah A. Binder and Bert A. Rockman (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions , Oxford University Press (2006).