Institutional Approach in Comparative Politics: Types and schools of thought of Institution

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Institutional Approach in Comparative Politics: Types and schools of thought of Institution

Comparative politics is all about comparison of different political systems and examination of how various Institutions work.

Institution alludes to the formal and casual guidelines that has been systematized or institutionalized.



There are two kinds of Institution -

  1.  Hard institution and
  2.  Soft institution.


Hard institutions are the composed standards, laws, guidelines, lawful understandings or contracts that has been officially upheld. 

Soft institutions are the unwritten standards,practices and norms that are not formal. These guidelines and practices are guided by customary standards as opposed to legitimate standards.



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School of thought of Institution:

1) Rational choice institutionalism:

The primary contention of rational choice institutionalism is individual interest versus collective good. Rational choice institutionalism is a individual centric approach. As per this approach, individuals are innately self intrigued. Therefore rational choice theorists comprehend institution as the result of the strategic bargaining between self interested actors.


Rational choice theorists argue that individuals are very clear about what is beneficial for them. Individuals make deliberate choices while chasing their personal goal. In this process they the act as a maximizers, who seeks greatest benefit and least cost in their choices but the problem is when individual act as a maximizer of benefit over cost the outcome may be affected by the Institutions. Therefore  rational choice institutionalism attempts to study how various institutions affects the pattern of cost and benefit. It argues if Institutions are properly structured, the quest for self interest by individual can lead to valuable social outcome.


2) Cultural institutionalism:


The central contention Of Cultural institutionalism is that peoples thoughts, ideas and beliefs plays an significant role in shaping institutions. Institution matters primary because peoples see Institutions from certain conviction and belief . Cultural theorists argue that existing cleavage structure alongside ethnic, linguistic and class line  influence the decisions of  Institutions. Historical components becomes relevant  here as the cultural theorists focus on how past Institutions shape present institutions. Cultural theorists state that every Institutions represent some dominant ideas which are based on cultural practices.


3) Structural institutionalism:


Structural Institutionalism is differs from rational choice institutionalism and cultural institutionalism. Rational choice focuses on individuals and cultural institutionalism focuses on cultures but structural institutionalism argues that society and societal Institutions are shaped by something which are beyond individual control. According to it, whether it is hard or soft Institutions, it is the largest societal structure which determines the functions of Institution.

 Structural institutionalism also identifies the economic purpose served by Institutions such as securing fiscal security, reassuring financial market etc. Therefore it focuses on the influence of capitalism and globalization in shaping institutions.


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