Institutionalism: State Models and Policy Processes

Oscar van Heffen, Pieter-Jan Klok

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    Many approaches and theories have been developed to understand and to explain policy processes, policy outcomes and policy effects. Since the 1950s theories based on contextualism (the view that policy and politics are subordinated to exogenous forces), utilitarism (the idea that policy politics revolve around choice rather than interpretation), instrumentalism (the idea that outcomes are more important than symbols and processes) and functionalism (the search for efficient outcomes and organizations) have predominated the scholarly debate in the field of public administration (Grendstad and Selle, 1995). Most of these theories take as starting point the calculative means-ends rationality of the rational choice approach, which considers a choice rational if, by this choice, a maximum goal accomplishment can be realized, given the goal in question and the actual world as it is (Dahl and Lindblom, 1953). In the 1980s the dominance of rational approaches was challenged by the new institutionalism in the social sciences. Generally, institutions can be considered as ‘the working rules of society’ (Ostrom, 1990: 51), whereas government institutions can be defined as systems of collectively binding working rules, which are pivotal for co-ordinating collective decision making.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationGovernance in Modern Society
    Subtitle of host publicationEffects, Change and Formation of Government Institutions
    EditorsOscar van Heffen, Walter J.M. Kickert, Jacques J.A. Thomassen
    Place of PublicationDordrecht
    PublisherKluwer Academic Publishers
    Number of pages24
    ISBN (Electronic)978-94-015-9486-8
    ISBN (Print)978-90-481-5594-1
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


    • Public choice
    • Institutional change
    • Policy process
    • Institutional analysis
    • Policy network


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