Historical Institutionalism

Links :: Rational Choice Institutionalism :: Sociological Institutionalism :: Notes on: Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms (Hall & Taylor 1996)

Historical Institutionalism (HI) developed in response to Structural Functionalism which was wondering about institutional inefficiencies. If, as assumed, the world was a complex system gravitating towards a steady state, why did dysfunctional institutions persist. Hence,

Definition of International Institutions (IIs)

HI has as an expansive and textured understanding of which institutions matter and how they matter (Hall and Taylor 1996, 937). IIs are humanly devised rule systems that structure and constrain the behaviour of individual actors.

For historical institutionalists, IIs are:

the formal or informal procedures, routines, norms and conventions embedded in the organizational structure of the polity or political economy. They can range from the rules of a constitutional order or the standard operating procedures of a bureaucracy to the conventions governing trade union behaviour or bank-firm relations. In general, historical institutionalists associate institutions with organizations and the rules or conventions promulgated by formal organization. (Hall and Taylor 1996, 938)

Questions & Answers

Institutional variation despite similar systemic pressures

Institutions are often not as efficient as RCI would predict

Institutional persistence despite preference change

  • Process of institutionalisation (emergence/destruction of institutions after so-called critical junctures)
  • Path Dependency of institutions (path dependency as choice under historical constraints)



Hall, Peter A., and Rosemary C. R. Taylor. 1996. “Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms.” Political Studies 44 (5):936–57.

Graduate Student in International Relations, System Hacker at the FSFE

I am interested in all the ways computer technology reconfigures the political landscape.