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The Political Economy of Collective Action, Inequality, and Development$
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William D. Ferguson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781503604612

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503604612.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM STANFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.stanford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Stanford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in SSO for personal use.date: 25 September 2021

Power, Social Conflict, Institutional Formation, and Credible Commitment

Power, Social Conflict, Institutional Formation, and Credible Commitment

Chapter:
(p.134) 5 Power, Social Conflict, Institutional Formation, and Credible Commitment
Source:
The Political Economy of Collective Action, Inequality, and Development
Author(s):

William D. Ferguson

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9781503604612.003.0006

This chapter develops a social conflict theory of institutions. The third hypothesis posits that unequal distributions of power shape the creation, evolution, and demise of economic and political institutions. A background discussion defines power—a slightly slippery concept—and addresses key sources and manifestations of power. Unequal distributions of power then generate a series of CAPs associated with asymmetric influence on institutional construction and evolution. A flowchart model illustrates. To complicate matters, the fourth hypothesis posits that powerful parties cannot, left to themselves, credibly promise to refrain from using their power for their own future gain—often at the expense of others. Specifically, without institutional and motivational constraint, powerful parties may seize the gains from others’ investments in potentially fruitful economic and political activities. Functional development thus requires resolving multiple, largely second-order, CAPs related to credibly restraining powerful actors—when such actors, simultaneously, exert disproportionate influence over institution building.

Keywords:   power, institutional evolution, hold-up problems, credible commitment, second-order CAPs, sources of power, manifestations of power

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