The Myth of Institutional Rigidity

23 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2015 Last revised: 8 Nov 2015

See all articles by Alasdair S. Roberts

Alasdair S. Roberts

University of Massachusetts Amherst - School of Public Policy

Date Written: March 24, 2015


Institutions change slowly. This simple proposition is widely accepted among academics who specialize in the study of public institutions. It is an essential organizing principle within the area of study that is known as the new institutionalism. But this proposition is also a myth. This is not the same as asserting that it is clearly untrue. The proposition can be regarded as a myth because is broadly endorsed as an organizing principle within the field, whose accuracy is taken for granted. Indeed, it is not clear that it is possible to empirically establish the truth of the proposition. The unquestioning acceptance of this proposition has unfortunate consequences. It encourages pessimism about the capacity of democratic systems to respond competently to new problems.

Keywords: institutionalism, institutional change, democracy

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Alasdair S., The Myth of Institutional Rigidity (March 24, 2015). Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 15-17, Available at SSRN: or

Alasdair S. Roberts (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts Amherst - School of Public Policy ( email )

Thompson Hall
Amherst, MA 01003
United States
6175999029 (Phone)

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