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Institutionalism as a Methodology


  • Daniel Diermeier

    (Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University,

  • Keith Krehbiel

    (Graduate School of Business at Stanford University,


We provide a definition of institutionalism and a schematic account that differentiates between institutional theories (in which institutions are exogenous) and theories of institutions, in which some (but not necessarily all) institutions are endogenous. Our primary argument is that institutionalism in the contemporary context is better characterized as a method than as a body of substantive work motivated by the so-called chaos problem. Secondary arguments include the following. (1) While it is important to differentiate sharply between institutions and behavior, institutionalism presupposes a well-defined behavioral concept. (2) When making the challenging transition from developing institutional theories to developing theories of institutions, it is essential to hold behavioral axioms fixed and to choose a form of equilibrium that exists for the class of games studied. (3) For most research programs today, a form of Nash equilibrium has the requisite properties while the core, and structure-induced equilibria (SIE) that rely on the core, often lack the requisite properties.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Diermeier & Keith Krehbiel, 2003. "Institutionalism as a Methodology," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 15(2), pages 123-144, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jothpo:v:15:y:2003:i:2:p:123-144

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    Cited by:

    1. Carlos Scartascini & Mariano Tommasi, 2012. "The Making of Policy: Institutionalized or Not?," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 56(4), pages 787-801, October.
    2. Daniel Diermeier & Hulya Eraslan & Antonio Merlo, 2002. "Bicameralism and Government Formation, Second Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 07-010, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Feb 2007.
    3. Wim van de Griendt, 2004. "A law & economics approach to the study of integrated management regimes of estuaries," Law and Economics 0408002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Josep M. Colomer, 2005. "It's parties that choose electoral systems (or Duverger's Law upside down)," Economics Working Papers 812, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    5. Crombez, Christophe & Groseclose, Timothy J. & Krehbiel, Keith, 2005. "Gatekeeping," Research Papers 1861r1, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    6. Schlüter, Maja & Baeza, Andres & Dressler, Gunnar & Frank, Karin & Groeneveld, Jürgen & Jager, Wander & Janssen, Marco A. & McAllister, Ryan R.J. & Müller, Birgit & Orach, Kirill & Schwarz, Nina & Wij, 2017. "A framework for mapping and comparing behavioural theories in models of social-ecological systems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 21-35.


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