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Journal Article

Institutions in Comparative Policy Research


Scharpf,  Fritz W.
Problemlösungsfähigkeit der Mehrebenenpolitik in Europa, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Scharpf, F. W. (2000). Institutions in Comparative Policy Research. Comparative Political Studies, 33(6-7), 762-790. doi:10.1177/001041400003300604.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-5562-C
The article explores the intersections between the different perspectives of institutional and policy research and discusses the characteristic purposes and conditions of theory-oriented policy research, where the usefulness of statistical analyses is generally constrained by the complexity and contingency of causal influences. Although comparative case studies are better able to deal with these conditions, their capacity to empirically identify the causal effect of differing institutional conditions on policy outcomes depends on a restrictive case selection that would need to hold constant the influence of two other sets of contingent factors—the policy challenges actually faced and the preferences and perceptions of the actors involved. When this is not possible, empirical policy research may usefully resort to a set of institutionalist working hypotheses that are derived from the narrowly specified theoretical assumptions of rational-choice institutionalism. Although these hypotheses will often be wrong, they are useful in guiding the empirical search for factors that are able to explain policy outcomes that deviate from predictions of the rationalist model.