The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions
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The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions


DisciplinaCiências Políticas e Teoria do Estado622 materiais7.848 seguidores
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that informagents\u2019 responses tomoments of uncertainty and crisis\u2019\u2019
(2002, 251). This is a bold and almost certainly overstated claim. For, rather than
demonstrating that structural prerequisites cannot inform a credible account of
institutional change, constructivist institutionalism is perhaps better seen as dem-
onstrating that alternative and compelling accounts can be constructed that do not
restrict themselves to such material factors. Moreover, Blyth here seems to drive
something of awedge between the consideration of ideational andmaterial factors in
causal analysis. This is unfortunate, because as he at times seems quite happy to
concede, there are almost certainly (some) material conditions of existence of
ascendant crisis narratives and crises themselves would seem to have both material
and ideational determinants. Ideational factors certainly need to be given greater
attention, but surely not at the expense of all other variables.
4 Conclusion
.........................................................................................................................................................................................
As the above paragraphs hopefully suggest, whilst constructivist institutionalism
has much to contribute to the analysis and, above all, the explanation of complex
institutional change, it is still very much a work in progress. Its particular appeal
resides in its ability to interrogate and open up the often acknowledged and yet
rarely explored question of institutional dynamics under disequilibrium condi-
tions. As a consequence of this focus, it has already gone some way to overcoming
the new institutionalism\u2019s characteristic failure to deal adequately with post-
formative institutional change and its tendency to Wnd it rather easier to describe
(and, even more so, to explain) path-dependent as opposed to path-shaping logics.
Yet, in so doing, it has stumbled over other problems. In particular, it seems unclear
whether constructivist institutionalists are prepared to abandon altogether the long
association of interests and material factors in political analysis that they ostensibly
challenge. Similarly, the extent to which constructivist institutionalism entails the
substitution of material by ideational explanations, the development of explan-
ations which dissolve the dualistic distinction between the two, or merely the
addition of ideational variables to pre-existing material accounts remains unclear.
72 colin hay
Finally, there is still something of a tension it seems between the assuredness and
conWdence with which the superiority of constructivist institutionalist insights are
proclaimed and the theoretical modesty that a constructivist ontology and episte-
mology would seem almost naturally to entail. None of these are fundamental
impediments to the development of a fourth new institutionalism alongside the
others; but theydo provide a sense of the debates thatmust, and are likely to, animate
the constructivist institutionalist research programme over the next decade.
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