Variation in Institutional Strength

Posted: 4 Jun 2010

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2009


Comparative research on political institutions has begun to turn from issues of formal institutional design to issues of institutional strength. Rather than assuming a tight fit between formal rules and political behavior, these studies examine how variation in the stability and/or enforcement of formal rules shapes actors' expectations and behavior. This article explores the emerging research agenda on institutional strength. It disaggregates the concept of institutional strength into two dimensions—enforcement and stability—and it argues that institutions vary widely on both dimensions. The article then examines the sources of this variation and its implications for comparative research. It shows how recent research on weak institutions may be used to refine existing theories of institutional effects, design, and development, which should broaden the comparative scope of these theories. The conclusion examines ways of developing comparative measures of institutional strength.

Suggested Citation

Levitsky, Steven and Murillo, María Victoria, Variation in Institutional Strength (June 2009). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 12, pp. 115-133, 2009. Available at SSRN: or

Steven Levitsky (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

María Victoria Murillo

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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