Institution making in times of crisis
This study examines how individuals invest in the construction of mental models and organizations in order to explain institutional change over long periods of time. Sub-Saharan Africa in the past fifty years has proceeded through long periods of constitutional stasis punctuated by short periods of rapid change. This unique pattern is due to how individuals invest in the ideas around which collective action is possible. The fundamental question for institutional development, addressed here, is not why do institutions change, but, why do constitutional-level institutions not change. When bargaining over the institutional rules that guide social interactions in a community, individuals face the decision of pooling their resources together in order to overcome opposition. Pooling resources, though, requires an investment in creating common ideas about the problems at hand and how to solve those problems. The thesis put forward here is that long periods of institutional stasis are due to individuals slowly investing the resources needed to create common mental models as well as the institutions that will guide their collective action. As a critique to models of waves of institutional change, this study refocuses attention on the longer periods of what seems to be institutional stasis as important for explaining the types of rapid change that occurs during the wave crests. Periods where constitutional-level institutional change does not occur are also periods where groups of individuals are creating the rules that govern their collective action as well as the ideas around which they act. Using elite interviews and archival analysis, the institutional development experience of Benin over the course of fifty years is used as a crucial case in order to highlight the trend of institutional creation in Francophone Africa.
0617: Public administration
0331: African history