Political Institutions

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Political institutions have been around since nearly all human societies were organized tribally. Over time they have developed into various organizational features and eventually taken the shape they do today. They have proven to be fundamental in virtually all societies worldwide and by being so omnipresent we often take these institutions for granted and do not realize how vital they are for our society. Moreover, because they are so important and play such a big part in our society, there is a major purpose to compare them between time and place. Therefore, this paper will first elaborate on explanations for political institutions and through that process come up with a working definition. Furthermore, it will explain why political institutions play such a major role in our society, and lastly it will argue for why we should compare these institutions.

There are countless definitions of political institutions making the term somewhat vague (Klingemann & Goodin, 1996; Peters & Pierre, 1998). It refers not only to formal political organizations such as political parties and parliament, but also to informal constraints such as customs, ideals, guidelines and actions (Peters & Pierre, 1998; North 1990). In addition, Wiens (2012) emphasizes that these formal and informal rules establish and stabilize roles. Moreover, although there is no consensus amongst theorists of what makes an institution political (Garret & Lange, 1995), Max Weber (cited in Gerth & Mills, 1946) and Moe (2005) argue that an institution is political if it influences the distribution of power. As a result, for the purpose of this essay I will combine these scholars’ explanations to create a working definition. Political institutions are sets of formal and informal rules that influence the distribution of power, create roles and by combinations of standards, ethics, instructions and procedures stabilize interaction for occupants of those roles (Wiens, 2012; Peters &...
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