Institutions are durable; that is precisely what makes them meaningful and important. But institutions also sometimes change. This entry compares a variety of theoretical approaches to understanding the process of institutional change. Some authors treat institutional change as a centralized, collective-choice process in which rules are explicitly specified by a collective political entity, such as the community or “the state,” and individuals and organizations engage in collective action, conflict, and bargaining to try to change these rules for their own benefit. Others emphasize the “spontaneous” emergence of institutions as an evolutionary process, in which new institutional forms periodically emerge and undergo some kind of decentralized selection process as they compete against alternative institutions. Still others combine elements of evolution and design. We differentiate a variety of approaches to the interaction between formal and informal rules and explore the...
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