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Destructive power, enforcement and institutional change

Listed author(s):
  • Vahabi, Mehrdad

Institutions are usually defined as rules of the game. But if rules are dead letters without being enforced, then what is the role of destructive power in the genesis of institutions? This is the first question which will be addressed in the present paper. While the importance of incremental or evolutionary changes in informal rules is undeniable, what is the role of destructive power or revolution in politics with regard to institutional change? To what extent is destructive power involved in the change of rules? This is the second question that will be tackled in the present paper. The purpose of this paper is to answer these two questions focusing on a point that current scholarship regarding institutions usually fail to notice, with an emphasis on rules and laws: the power that enforces those rules and laws. The analysis of different forms of power will demonstrate the fact that the capacity to destroy as well as the capacity to produce plays a role in generating and maintaining institutions. I will try to show that the recognition of destructive power sheds new light on at least three major issues: i) the relationship between property rights and sovereignty, ii) the importance of revolution as well as evolution in social change, iii) the emergence of various means of collective expression such as Luddism, universal suffrage, and association.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 13236.

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Date of creation: Sep 2005
Date of revision: Jan 2006
Publication status: Published in Journal of Economics and Business 1.9(2006): pp. 59-89
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:13236
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  1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1999. "Foundations of Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 115-138.
  2. Hirschman,Albert O., 1981. "Essays in Trespassing," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521282437, December.
  3. Mehrdad Vahabi, 2004. "The Political Economy of Destructive Power," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 3481.
  4. Dimitris Milonakis & Ben Fine, 2007. "Douglass North’s Remaking of Economic History: A Critical Appraisal," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 39(1), pages 27-57, March.
  5. Kornai, J., 1993. "Transformational Recession; A General Phenomenon Examined Through the Example of Hangary's Development," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1648, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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