The Development of Political Institutions

Power, Legitimacy, Democracy

Subjects: Political Science, Political Psychology, Political History
Paperback : 9780472038985, 216 pages, 6 x 9, January 2022
Hardcover : 9780472132836, 216 pages, 6 x 9, January 2022
Open Access : 9780472902781, 216 pages, 6 x 9, January 2022

This open access version is made available thanks in part to the support of libraries participating in Knowledge Unlatched.
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Human motivation and historical influence in political development

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Institutional Development
The Dynamics of Power and (De-)Legitimation
Chapter 2: Institutional Reproduction
Path Dependence and the Dynamic Stability of Politics
Chapter 3: Institutional Decay
The Logic of “Self-Undermining” Processes
Chapter 4: Institutional Change
The Incremental Logic of Political Development
Chapter 5: Institutional Engineering
The Purposive Design of Political Institutions


While the literature on “new institutionalism” explains the stability of institutional arrangements within countries and the divergence of paths of institutional development between countries, Federico Ferrara takes a “historical institutionalist” approach to theorize dynamic processes of institutional reproduction, institutional decay, and institutional change in explaining the development of political institutions. Ferrara synthesizes “power-based” or “power-distributional” explanations and “ideas-based” “legitimation explanations.” He specifies the psychological “microfoundations” of processes of institutional development, drawing heavily from the findings of experimental psychology to ensure that the explanation is grounded in clear and realistic assumptions regarding human motivation, cognition, and behavior. Aside from being of interest to scholars and graduate students in political science and other social-scientific disciplines whose research concentrates on the genesis of political institutions, their evolution over time, and their impact on the stability of political order and the quality of governance, the book will be required reading in graduate courses and seminars in comparative politics where the study of institutions and their development ranks among the subfield’s most important subjects.

Federico Ferrara is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian & International Studies at City University of Hong Kong.

“A major contribution to institutional analysis in the social sciences. Federico Ferrara does a masterful job of synthesizing different approaches and developing an exciting new framework that is comprehensive in scope. If I were to assign one book on institutional explanation to my students, it would be this one.”
—James Mahoney, Northwestern University

- James Mahoney

“This is a highly sophisticated and original theoretical statement about political authority and development. Ferrara successfully integrates the study of power and legitimacy while elegantly interweaving contemporary and classical accounts of political organization across the ages.”

—Orfeo Fioretos, Temple University

- Orfeo Fioretos