The neo-institutionalist trend

Our research demonstrates the diversity of economic and institutional forms in the world, and their coherence, which is specific to each national context.
The idea of a convergence of models (Fukuyama; North, Wallis and Weingast) is today widely contested. Yet the universalist vision remains dominant. It is led by international institutions such as the OECD and World Bank via the dissemination of principles of “good governance” and “best practices”. However, the in-depth comparative studies show that the institutional forms vary from one country to the other – and even between developed Western countries – and that these differences relate to singularities that can be observed over a long period of time.
The neo-institutionalist trend has criticised this universalist approach by showing the diversity of institutional models and their coherence with the history and the collective imagination that are specific to each society. Detailed case studies have been conducted, such as those on the form of capitalism (Fligstein and Freeland), the regulation of railways in the USA, UK and France (Dobbin), and the emergence of paid employment in Germany and the UK (Biernacki). There are, however, too few such studies. Furthermore, the way in which they justify national singularities does not escape from forms of determinism. These analyses more or less relate to a historical (“path dependency”) or cultural determinism, which supposes there are permanent “cultural patterns’’ (Swidler). They establish a link with the cultural repertoires that are specific to each society, but with the risk of considering them as being fixed in the same way as culturalism.
At the same time, these authors do not perceive the regularities that go beyond the institutional field studied and crosscut within a national context. Our observations show that there are regularities in each country, which are common to all areas of the economy and relate to underlying reference figures.

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