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The Dynamics of Institutions in Perspectives: Alternatives Conceptions and Future Challenges


The Dynamics of Institutions in Perspectives:
Alternatives Conceptions and Future Challenges

Paris / October 3 and 4, 2008
Amphithéâtre Hubert Curien
62 bis, rue Gay Lussac
75005 Paris
Bus n°21 or 27 (Station “Feuillentines”)

As widely recognized today, economists did not pay sufficient attention to institutions for a long time and designed theories that missed some essential factors for economic performance.  It also resulted in policy recommendations that were hardly implementable.  Thanks to the contributions of Nobel laureates like Ronald Coase or Douglas North, and of many others working on specific issues, the analysis of institutions has been becoming an essential topic on the research agenda.  Institutions are at the core of many theoretical advances as well as essential dimensions taken into account in many field of economics like development, finance, labor, industrial organization, not withstanding “natural” domain of application as law and economics, public economics, political economy.

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Recent developments on the matter highlight the central question of institutional dynamics.  From a theoretical point of view, a refining of our understanding of what institutions are and of the very nature of the different components of an institutional framework requires theories of how institutions emerge and how they evolve, of how institutional systems become progressively independent of those who play various games to intentionally design institutional components, of how the convergence of anticipations, beliefs, behaviors result or not in “rules of the game”, of how pre-existing institutional settings constrain the implementation of new rules and new enforcement mechanisms, etc.  In an applied perspective, in order to understand and, if this is possible, to manage institutional changes, it is clearly essential to dig more deeply into the complex interdependences between various institutional components, the potential phenomena hindering or blocking institutional changes, or to the opposite the chains of causality between micro-changes and macro-transformations, the interplay between formal and informal institutional dimensions.

Over the past years, many pieces of research have been exploring some of the many dimensions of theses complex issues.  For instances, economics history and the economics of development made substantial progress in analyzing the factors and processes of institutional transformation in the perspective of economic growth and development (or the lack of).  The economics of transition together with the analysis of regulatory reforms accumulated a lot of evidences regarding the interplay between various sources of authority in the conflicts for repartition of wealth that play a strong role in any process of institutional transformation.  The economics of knowledge, the developing field of economics and psychology and experimental economics also provided many analyses that are potentially useful to understand the role played by institutions in the development of human capabilities and in the framing of human behaviors.  Of course, the so called new-institutional economics, and many other sister sub-disciplines like law and economics, new political economy developed a lot of contributions as well, especially on the actual outcomes of alternative institutional settings on individual and collective behaviors. These findings are of importance for the understanding of the strategies at play in an institutional system and of the way their combinations result in institutional evolutions.

This is the reason why it seems appropriate to organize a workshop on the dynamics of institutions aimed at taking stock of the progresses made in various literatures over the years to identify the commonalities, to point the components of the analysis on which agreements could be reached, to stress the issues that deserve better exploration, to compare the methodologies and the paths along with the analysis should be developed.  Among the research questions, which should be at the core of the workshops topics, are:

  • How do institutions emerge and how institutional changes occur?  What are the potential factors hindering institutional changes, and those inducing transformations?  How to understand both institutional change and stability? What are the factors influencing the pace of change?
  • To what extent intentionality plays a role in institutional evolutions?  Can institutional systems be designed?  Can institutional change be decided?  How conflicts of interest, cognitive biases, and behavioral constraints can be overcome (or not) to collectively act to “manage” institutional evolutions?
  • If people can act on their institutions, why do they ‘choose’ to stick to bad institutions?  If they can’t switch to a better institutional environment, is it because they cannot reach an agreement on the target?  Is it because they cannot coordinate to reach it?  Is it because switching costs are too high?  More systematic replies should be provided to these questions.

The workshop will undertake to feed these questions by discussing discuss the different conceptions and analysis in the field of the dynamics of institutions and identify the agenda of the research in this domain.  It will take place in Paris in autumn 2008.  In particular, it will focus on the following points:

  • Analysis of the different tools and methods that are developed in the analysis of institutions.  The spectrum is rather large, from empirical and ‘historical’ methods, field experiments and experimental economics to game theory.  A systematic assessment of potential and shortcoming of alternative methods as well as the potentiality of their combination should be carried out.
  • Analysis of the alternative conceptions of institutions and institutional framework.  Most definition of institutions relies on the idea that they are the rules of the game on which individual agents cannot directly act.  It is however essential to refine this analysis to understand how individual strategies impact on institutional changes through a wide set of means: imitation, constraints, hierarchical power, bypassing, innovation, etc.
  • Analysis of institutional complementarities: Institutions might also be conceived as different sub-institutions (legal, political, etc.) that interact.  The problem is to look precisely at the way these different components interact and to explain both their specific logic of evolutions and the way interdependences among institutional components influence the pace and path of institutional evolutions.

The papers discussed during the workshop will be published in a special issue of a major journal.

Paris / October 3 and 4, 2008

Daily Schedule : The workshop will start every morning at 9:00 am and will finish at 6:10 pm.

Basic format of all sessions :

  • Presentation: 30 minutes
  • Discussants: 20 minutes (2 x 10 minutes each)
  • Questions: 15 minutes


Friday, 3 October

8h30 – 9h00 Welcome coffee

Morning session: 9h00-13h00
Chair: Roger Guesnerie (Collège de France, PSE)

9h00 – 10h10 : Avinash Dixit (Princeton University)
Elite-Led and Majoritarian Institutional Reforms” – slides
Discussants: Pablo Spiller (University of California, Berkeley) and Bertrand Crettez (University of Paris X)

10h10 – 10h40 : Coffee break

10h40 – 11h50 : John Joseph Wallis (University of Maryland)
Institutions, Organizations, and Interests” – slides
Discussants: Benito Arruñada (Pompeu Fabra University) and Pierre Garrouste (CES, University Paris I and University Lumière Lyon 2)

11h50 – 13h00 : Daniel Berkowitz (University of Pittsburgh) and David N. DeJong (University of Pittsburgh)
Growth in Post-Soviet Russia: A Tale of Two Transitions” – slides
Discussants: Barkley Rosser (James Madison University) and Gani Aldashev (University of Namur and PSE)

13h00 – 14h15 : Lunch break

Afternoon session: 14h15-18h10
Chair: Claude Ménard (CES, University of Paris I)

14h15 – 15h25 : Bruno Deffains (University of Paris X), Giuseppe Dari Mattiacci (University of Amsterdam) and Bruno Lovat (University of Nancy 2)
The Dynamic of the Legal System” – slides
Discussants: Santi Sanchez (University of Edinburg) and Carine Staropoli (Université Paris I)

15h25 – 16h35 : Gillian Hadfield (University of Southern California)
The Quality of Law: Judicial Incentives, Legal Human Capital and the Evolution of Law” – slides
Discussants: Robert Ellickson (Yale Law School) and Sophie Harnay (University of Paris X)

16h35 – 17h00 :Coffee break

17h00 – 18h10 : Stefan Voigt (Marburg Center for Institutional Economics)
Explaining institutional change: on the interplay between internal and external institutions” – slides
Discussants: Stéphane Saussier (IAE, University of Paris I) and Alain Marciano (University of Reims)

19h30 : Dinner

Saturday, 4 October

8h30 – 9h00 Welcome coffee

Morning session: 9h00-13h00
Chair: Benito Arruñada (Pompeu Fabra University)

9h00 – 10h10 : Avner Greif (Stanford University and CIFAR)
The Normative Foundations of Institutions and Institutional Change
Discussants: Pierre-Cyril Hautcoeur (PSE – EHESS) and Emmanuel Raynaud (INRA)

10h10 – 10h40 :Coffee break

10h40 – 11h50 : Catherine Guirkinger (University of Namur) and Jean-Philippe Platteau (University of Namur)
Transformation of the Family under Rising Land Pressure: A Theoretical Essay” – slides
Discussants: Stephan Straub (University of Toulouse 1) and Anne Yvrande-Billon (CAE and University of Paris I)

11h50 – 13h00 : Eric Brousseau (EconomiX, University of Paris X), Yves Schemeil (PACTE, IEP Grenoble & IUF) and Jérôme Sgard (CERI/Sciences-Po)
Development and the Process of Constitutionalization” – slides
Discussants: Christopher Kingston (Amherst College) and Bruno Amable (PSE, CES and University of Paris I)

13h00 – 14h15 : Lunch break

Afternoon session: 14h15-18h10
Chair: Olivier Favereau (University of Paris X)

14h15 – 15h25 : Thráinn Eggertsson (University of Iceland & New York University)
Knowledge and Economic Progress: the role of social technologies” – slides
Discussants: Jean Michel Glachant (University of Paris XI & European University Institute, Florence) and Antoine Rebérioux (University of Paris X)

15h25 – 16h35 : Robert Sugden (School of Economics, University of East Anglia)
How inductive inferences can be grounded on salience alone: Some reflections on the emergence of conventions” – slides
Discussants: André Orléan (PSE – EHESS) and Roberto Galbiati (University of Paris X)

16h35 – 17h00 : Coffee break

17h00 – 18h10 : Kenneth Binmore (University College London)
Origins of Fair Play” – slides
Discussants: Bernard Walliser (Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées) and Eshien Chong (University of Paris XI)


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