Skip to main content Accesibility Help
×
×
Home

Power and Political Institutions

  • Terry M. Moe (a1)
Abstract

Rational choice theory tends to view political institutions as structures of voluntary cooperation that resolve collective action problems and benefit all concerned. Yet the political process often gives rise to institutions that are good for some people and bad for others, depending on who has the power to impose their will. Political institutions may be structures of cooperation, but they may also be structures of power—and the theory does not tell us much about this. As a result, it gives us a one-sided and overly benign view of what political institutions are and do. This problem is not well understood, and indeed is not typically seen as a problem at all. For there is a widespread sense in the rational choice literature that, because power is frequently discussed, it is an integral part of the theory and just as fundamental as cooperation. Confusion on this score has undermined efforts to right the imbalance. My purpose here is to clarify the analytic roles that power and cooperation actually play in this literature, and to argue that a more balanced theory—one that brings power from its periphery to its very core—is both necessary and entirely possible.Terry M. Moe is the William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution (moe@hoover.stanford.edu). An earlier version of this article was presented at the Yale Conference on Crafting and Operating Institutions, April 11–13, 2003. The author would like to thank Sven Feldmann, Lloyd Gruber, James Fearon, Peter Hall, Jennifer Hochschild, Stephen Krasner, Chris Mantzavinos, Gary Miller, Paul Pierson, Theda Skocpol, Barry Weingast, and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Copyright
References
Hide All

References

Arrow, Kenneth J. 1963. Social choice and individual values. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Axelrod, Robert. 1984. The evolution of cooperation. New York: Basic Books.
Axelrod, Robert, and Robert O. Keohane. 1985. Achieving cooperation under anarchy: Strategies and institutions. World Politics 38 (1): 22654.
Bachrach, Peter, and Morton S. Baratz. 1962. Two faces of power. American Political Science Review 56 (4): 94752.
Baldwin, David A. 1985. Economic statecraft: Paradoxes of power. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Barry, Brian. 1976. Power: An economic analysis. In Power and political theory: Some European perspectives, ed. Brian Barry, 67101. New York: Wiley.
Bartlett, Randall. 1989. Economics and power: An inquiry into human relations and markets. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Barzel, Yoram. 2002. A theory of the state: Economic rights, legal rights, and the scope of the state. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bates, Robert H. 1989. Beyond the miracle of the market: The political economy of agrarian development in Kenya. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bates, Robert H. 2001. Prosperity and violence: The political economy of violence. New York: W. W. Norton.
Becker, Gary. 1983. A theory of competition among pressure groups for political influence. Quarterly Journal of Economics 98 (3): 371400.
Bell, Roderick, David V. Edwards, and R. Harrison Wagner, eds. 1969. Political power: A reader in theory and research. New York: Free Press.
Buchanan, James M., Robert D. Tollison, and Gordon Tullock, eds. 1980. Toward a theory of the rent-seeking society. College Station: Texas A&M Press.
Calvert, Randall. 1997. Rational actors, equilibrium, and social institutions. In Explaining social institutions, ed. Jack Knight and Itai Sened, 5793. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Cox, Gary W., and Mathew D. McCubbins. 1993. Legislative leviathan: Party government in the House. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Dahl, Robert A. 1957. The concept of power. Behavioral Science 2 (3): 20115.
Dixit, Avinash K., and John Londregan. 1995. Redistributive politics and economic efficiency. American Political Science Review 89 (4): 85666.
Dixit, Avinash K., and John Londregan. 1996. The determinants of success of special interests in redistributive politics. Journal of Politics 58 (4): 113255.
Dowding, Keith M. 1991. Rational choice and political power. Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar.
Dowding, Keith M. 1996. Power. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Eggertsson, Thrainn. 1990. Economic behavior and institutions. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Epstein, David, and Sharyn O'Halloran. 1999. Delegating powers: A transaction cost politics approach to policy making under separate powers. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Francis, Arthur, Jeremy Turk, and Paul Willman, eds. 1983. Power, efficiency, and institutions. London: Heineman.
Greif, Avner. 1998. Self-enforcing political systems and economic growth: Late medieval Genoa. In Analytic narratives, ed. Robert H. Bates, Avner Greif, Margaret Levi, Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, and Barry R. Weingast, 2263. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Greif, Avner, Paul Milgrom, and Barry R. Weingast. 1994. Commitment, coordination, and enforcement: The case of the merchant guilds. Journal of Political Economy 102 (4): 74576.
Gruber, Lloyd. 2000. Ruling the world: Power politics and the rise of supranational institutions. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Hall, Peter A., and Rosemary C. R. Taylor. 1996. Political science and the three new institutionalisms. Political Studies 44 (5): 95273.
Hardin, Russell. 1982. Collective action. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Hardin, Russell. 1990. Contractarianism: Wistful thinking. Constitutional Political Economy 1 (2): 3552.
Hardin, Russell. 1995. One for all: The logic of group conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Hirschleifer, Jack. 1994. The dark side of the force. Economic Inquiry 32 (1): 110.
Horn, Murray J. 1995. The political economy of public administration: Institutional choice in the public sector. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Huber, John D., and Charles R. Shipan. 2002. Deliberate discretion? The institutional foundations of bureaucratic autonomy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Keohane, Robert O. 1984. After hegemony: Cooperation and discord in the world political economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Knight, Jack. 1992. Institutions and social conflict. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Koremenos, Barbara, Charles Lipson, and Duncan Snidal. 2001. The rational design of international institutions. International Organization 55 (4): 761800.
Korpi, Walter. 2001. Contentious institutions: An augmented rational-action analysis of the origins and path dependency of welfare state institutions in western countries. Rationality and Society 13 (2): 23583.
Krasner, Stephen D. 1991. Global communications and national power: Life on the Pareto frontier. World Politics 43 (3): 33666.
Kreps, David M. 1991. Game theory and economic modeling. New York: Oxford University Press.
Levi, Margaret. 1981. The predatory theory of rule. Politics and Society 10 (4): 43166.
Levi, Margaret. 1988. Of rule and revenue. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Levi, Margaret. 1990. A logic of institutional change. In The limits of rationality, ed. Karen Schweers Cook and Margaret Levi, 40218. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Levi, Margaret. 1997. Consent, dissent, and patriotism. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Libecap, Gary D. 1986. Contracting for property rights. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lukes, Steven. 1974. Power: A radical view. London: Macmillan.
Mantzavinos, Chris, Douglass C. North, and Syed Shariq. 2004. Learning, institutions, and economic performance. Perspectives on Politics 2 (1): 7584.
Martin, Lisa L. 1992. Coercive cooperation: Explaining multilateral economic sanctions. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
McGuire, Martin C., and Mancur Olson, Jr. 1996. The economics of autocracy and majority rule: The invisible hand and the use of force. Journal of Economic Literature 34 (1): 7296.
McKelvey, Richard D. 1976. Intransitivities in multidimensional voting models and some implications for agenda control. Journal of Economic Theory 12 (3): 47282.
Milgrom, Paul R., Douglass C. North, and Barry R. Weingast. 1990. The role of institutions in the revival of trade: The medieval law merchant, private judges, and the champagne fairs. Economics and Politics 2 (1): 123.
McCubbins, Mathew D., Roger G. Noll, and Barry R. Weingast. 1987. Administrative procedures as instruments of political control. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 3 (2): 24377.
Milner, Helen V. 1997. Interests, institutions, and information: Domestic politics and international relations. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Moe, Terry M. 1984. The new economics of organization. American Journal of Political Science 28 (4): 73977.
Moe, Terry M. 1990. Political institutions: The neglected side of the story. Special issue, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 6: 21353.
Moe, Terry M. 1997. The positive theory of public bureaucracy. In Perspectives on public choice: A handbook, ed. Dennis C. Mueller, 45580. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Morriss, Peter. 2002. Power: A philosophical analysis. New York: Manchester University Press.
Niskanen, William A., Jr. 1971. Bureaucracy and representative government. New York: Aldine-Atherton.
North, Douglass C. 1981. Structure and change in economic history. New York: W. W. Norton.
North, Douglass C. 1990. Institutions, institutional change, and economic performance. New York: Cambridge University Press.
North, Douglass C. 1994. The historical evolution of polities. International Review of Law and Economics 14 (4): 38191.
North, Douglass C. 1995. Five propositions about institutional change. In Explaining social institutions, ed. Jack Knight and Itai Sened, 1526, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
North, Douglass C., and Barry R. Weingast. 1989. Constitutions and commitment: The evolution of institutions governing public choice in seventeenth-century England. Journal of Economic History 49 (4): 80332.
Olson, Mancur, Jr. 1965. The logic of collective action: Public goods and the theory of groups. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Olson, Mancur, Jr. 1982. The rise and decline of nations: Economic growth, stagflation, and social rigidities. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Olson, Mancur, Jr. 1993. Dictatorship, democracy, and development. American Political Science Review 87 (3): 56776.
Olson, Mancur, Jr. 2000. Power and prosperity: Outgrowing communist and capitalist dictatorships. New York: Basic Books.
Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Perrow, Charles. 1981. Markets, hierarchies, and hegemony: A critique of Chandler and Williamson. In Perspectives on organization design and behavior, ed. Andrew H. Van de Ven and William F. Joyce, 37186. New York: Wiley.
Perrow, Charles. 1986. Complex organizations: A critical essay. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Pierson, Paul. 2000. Increasing returns, path dependence, and the study of politics. American Political Science Review 94 (2): 25167.
Pierson, Paul, and Theda Skocpol. 2002. Historical institutionalism in contemporary political science. In Political science: The state of the discipline, ed. Ira Katznelson and Helen V. Milner, 693721. New York: W. W. Norton.
Polsby, Nelson W. 1980. Community power and political theory: A further look at problems of evidence and inference. 2nd ed. Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies Press.
Powell, Robert. 2002. Bargaining theory and international conflict. Annual Review of Political Science 5: 130.
Pratt, John W., and Richard J. Zeckhauser. 1985. Principles and agents: The structure of business. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Przeworski, Adam. 1991. Democracy and the market: Political and economic reforms in Eastern Europe and Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Roemer, John, ed. 1986. Analytical Marxism: Studies in Marxism and social theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Romer, Thomas, and Howard Rosenthal. 1978. Political resource allocation: Controlled agendas and the status quo. Public Choice 33 (4): 2743.
Root, Hilton L. 1989. Tying the king's hands: Credible commitments and royal fiscal policy during the old regime. Rationality and Society 1 (2): 24058.
Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent. 1992. The fruits of revolution: Property rights, litigation and French agriculture (1700-1860). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Shepsle, Kenneth A. 1979. Institutional arrangements and equilibrium in multidimensional voting models. American Journal of Political Science 23 (1): 2759.
Shepsle, Kenneth A. 1986. Institutional equilibrium and equilibrium institutions. In Political science: The science of politics, ed. Herbert F. Weisberg, 5181. New York: Agathon.
Shepsle, Kenneth A., and Barry R. Weingast. 1981. Structure-induced equilibrium and legislative choice. Public Choice 37 (3): 50319.
Taylor, Michael. 1987. The possibility of cooperation. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Umbeck, John. 1981. Might makes right: A theory of the function and initial distribution of property rights. Economic Inquiry 19 (1): 3859.
Wantchekon, Leonard. 2004. The paradox of “warlord” democracy: A theoretical investigation. American Political Science Review 98 (1): 1734.
Weber, Max. 1947. The theory of economic and social organization. Trans. A. M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons. New York: Oxford University Press.
Weingast, Barry R. 1995. The economic role of political institutions: Market-preserving federalism and economic development. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 11 (1): 131.
Weingast, Barry R. 1996. Political institutions: Rational choice perspectives. In A new handbook of political science, ed. Robert E. Goodin and Hans-Dieter Klingemann, 16790. New York: Oxford University Press.
Weingast, Barry R. 1997. The political foundations of democracy and the rule of law. American Political Science Review 91 (2): 24563.
Weingast, Barry R. 2002. Rational-choice institutionalism. In Political science: The state of the discipline, ed. Ira Katznelson and Helen V. Milner, 66092. New York: W. W. Norton.
Weingast, Barry R., and William Marshall. 1988. The industrial organization of Congress, or Why legislatures, like firms, are not organized as markets. Journal of Political Economy 96 (1): 13263.
Williamson, Oliver E. 1985. The economic institutions of capitalism: Firms, markets, relational contracting. New York: Free Press.
Woodruff, David M. 2001. Review of Power and prosperity: Outgrowing communist and capitalist dictatorships, by Mancur Olson. East European Constitutional Review 10 (1): 97103.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed