Understanding Institutions: A Multi-Dimensional Approach

65 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2018 Last revised: 22 Nov 2018

Date Written: March 2, 2018


With the rise of nativist policies throughout the world, the growing dangers posed by climate change and rising income inequality, and ever-increasing threats to the rule of law, many turn to what they consider to be the institutions of democracy to achieve desired policy goals. Indeed, if one seeks to address climate change, preserve the rule of law, and reduce income inequality, functioning institutions are needed to achieve such goals. But this institutional turn in law and policy presupposes a common understanding of institutions as well as an appreciation for the ways in which institutions may function to achieve such policy goals. This institutional turn should evoke the discipline of comparative institutional analysis, which asks which institutional setting — typically considered to be either the political process, the markets, or the courts — is the preferred one where one can achieve such goals. But this narrow view of institutional settings, and institutions themselves, leaves much to be desired, particularly where the scale and complexity of problems, and the policy goals one may have to address them, both grow. Indeed, this monolithic or one-dimensional view of institutions appears ill-equipped to address the scale and scope of the contemporary collective action problems the world faces. This Article is an attempt to develop an approach to comparative institutional analysis that recognizes the rich, multi-dimensional aspects of not only the problems institutions are asked to solve, but also the characteristics of institutions themselves. It offers a new approach to comparative institutional analysis, one that embraces a robust, and more realistic view of institutions. In turn, I hope to show that such an approach will offer a means of achieving more effective comparative institutional analysis in light of the growing scale and complexity of the problems the world faces at present, and will no doubt face well into the future.

Keywords: Comparative Institutional Analysis

JEL Classification: K00, K40

Suggested Citation

Brescia, Raymond H., Understanding Institutions: A Multi-Dimensional Approach (March 2, 2018). University of New Hampshire Law Review, Volume 17, P. 1 (2018), Albany Law School Research Paper No. 8 for 2018-2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3133371

Raymond H. Brescia (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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