Institutional and Organizational Analysis: Concepts and Applications

By Eric Alston, Lee J. Alston, Bernardo Mueller, and Tomas Nonnenmacher

The notion that “institutions matter” is broadly accepted, and many scholars instead pose the more specific question: under what conditions do a given set of institutions play a role in influencing outcomes of interest from the micro to the macro level? Since the pioneering work of Buchanan, Coase, North, Ostrom, Williamson, and many others, the literature in Institutional and Organizational Analysis (IOA) has developed considerably. The lengthy development of the discipline means there is a wealth of institutional scholarship that now spans decades, disciplines, and continents. Our forthcoming 2018 book with Cambridge University Press, Institutional and Organizational Analysis: Concepts and Applications, expands on many of the major contributions in this area, organized within a framework that explains both the effects and determinants of institutions and norms.

Our book is organized into three parts, each of which details a distinct outcome of interest to social scientists that is clarified through considering the institutions specific to a given context and the reasons these institutions came into being. For scholars interested in explaining economic outcomes, a focus on property rights, transaction costs, and the distinction between institutions and norms is often essential. Second, although much of the extant analysis of political outcomes takes laws as fixed, it is useful to understand the determinants of laws and policies through the ordinary operation of the political system. A focus on the specific institutions (and their effect on political actors’ incentives) that greatly shape the political system goes a long way toward explaining observed outcomes. Third, such a focus on political outcomes tends to take constitutional outcomes as fixed; if we weaken this assumption, as a number of prominent institutionalists have done, a focus on how constitutional institutions change as a result of leadership and beliefs in society can help us understand the profound disparities in well-being that persist around the world.

Further, we identify fruitful avenues for research within each of our referential frames of institutional and organizational analysis, from the economic to the political to the constitutional. It is our hope that the text will serve as a resource in helping to define the still emerging field of IOA. The wide-ranging survey of foundational contributions to the institutions and organizations literature will prove a useful reference for advanced students and scholars alike. The analysis of the emergence and evolution of complex rule sets has proven to be one of the most illuminating areas of economic study over the course of the past century, and we accordingly describe how much more we think the field has to contribute. But you don’t simply have to take our word for it; read the endorsements by leading scholars...

“These four intrepid authors develop a theory of institutional and organizational analysis of enormous ambition. Influenced by Buchanan, Coase, North and Ostrom, and Williamson, they work on a broad tapestry that crosses continents, spans centuries, and yet always maintains its focus on which set of arrangements flourish and which flounder.” RICHARD A. EPSTEIN, New York University; The Hoover Institution; and University of Chicago

“As a rule you can only synthesize an academic field when it is moribund. This book is the exception that proves the rule; it manages to bring together the most important ideas in institutional economics in a way which not only shows how intellectually vibrant it is, but which also opens up new research agendas. There is no better introduction.” JAMES A. ROBINSON, University of Chicago

“This comprehensive introduction to the study of institutions and organizations approaches the question I have long considered in my own work: which set of institutions is most conducive to economic development? These authors provide an excellent synthesis of this essential field of study for students and scholars alike.” HERNANDO DE SOTO, Institute for Liberty and Democracy

“This is the book we've been waiting for – a comprehensive, comparative, interdisciplinary tour of the key concepts and most significant arguments that define modern political economy. The authors have assembled a volume remarkable in scope and content. It belongs on every scholar's shelf and in every student's hands.” KENNETH A. SHEPSLE, Harvard University

“This is a wonderful book—broad in scope (institutions, norms, organizations, and contracts), in disciplines (economics, political science, law, and history), and in methodologies (classic informal arguments, summaries of recent formal models, and incisive case studies). So many problems of collective action, productivity, development, and growth find almost no expression (not to mention solution) in neoclassical analyses of markets; Institutional and Organizational Analysis offers a way forward.” ROBERT GIBBONS, MIT’s Sloan School of Management and MIT’s Economics Department