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Interest in developing institutional explanations of political and economic behavior has blossomed among social scientists since the early 1980s. Three intellectual perspectives are now prevalent: rational choice theory, historical institutionalism and a new school of organizational analysis. This paper summarizes, compares and contrasts these views and suggests ways in which cross‐fertilization may be achieved. Particular attention is paid to how the insights of organizational analysis and historical institutionalism can be blended to provide fruitful avenues of research and theorizing, especially with regard to the production, adoption, and mobilization of ideas by decision makers.
In this paper, I demonstrate an alternative explanation to the development of the American electricity industry. I propose a social embeddedness approach (Granovetter…
In this paper, I demonstrate an alternative explanation to the development of the American electricity industry. I propose a social embeddedness approach (Granovetter, 1985, 1992) to interpret why the American electricity industry appears the way it does today, and start by addressing the following questions: Why is the generating dynamo located in well‐connected central stations rather than in isolated stations? Why does not every manufacturing firm, hospital, school, or even household operate its own generating equipment? Why do we use incandescent lamps rather than arc lamps or gas lamps for lighting? At the end of the nineteenth century, the first era of the electricity industry, all these technical as well as organizational forms were indeed possible alternatives. The centralized systems we see today comprise integrated, urban, central station firms which produce and sell electricity to users within a monopolized territory. Yet there were visions of a more decentralized electricity industry. For instance, a geographically decentralized system might have dispersed small systems based around an isolated or neighborhood generating dynamo; or a functionally decentralized system which included firms solely generating and transmitting the power, and selling the power to locally‐owned distribution firms (McGuire, Granovetter, and Schwartz, forthcoming). Similarly, the incandescent lamp was not the only illuminating device available at that time. The arc lamp was more suitable for large‐space lighting than incandescent lamps; and the second‐generation gas lamp ‐ Welsbach mantle lamp ‐ was much cheaper than the incandescent electric light and nearly as good in quality (Passer, 1953:196–197).
Social scientists have long been interested in how political institutions affect economic performance. Nowhere are these effects more apparent today than in the current…
Social scientists have long been interested in how political institutions affect economic performance. Nowhere are these effects more apparent today than in the current U.S. financial meltdown. This article offers an analysis of the meltdown by showing how government regulation among other things helped cause it. Specifically, the article shows how regulatory reforms closely associated with neoliberalism created perverse incentives that contributed significantly to the increased lending in the mortgage market and increased speculation in other financial markets even as such behavior was becoming increasingly risky. The result was the failure of mortgage firms, banks, a major insurance company, and eventually the market for short-term business loans, which triggered a general liquidity crisis thereby thrusting the entire economy into a severe recession. Implications for future research are explored. The article also offers a few policy prescriptions and an assessment of their political viability going forward.
Shedding light on urban transportation and, more specifically, the contemporary development of “smart” bikesharing systems (i.e. short-term bicycle rental services), the…
Shedding light on urban transportation and, more specifically, the contemporary development of “smart” bikesharing systems (i.e. short-term bicycle rental services), the purpose of this paper is to focus on Montreal's bikesharing experiment. Known as BIXI (a contraction of the words BIcycle and taXI) since its inception in 2009, this system has been exported to other cities around the world, making it especially relevant for the analysis of this innovative and sustainable form of urban mobility.
By tracing the policy history of BIXI and the current political debate about its future while using a framework focusing on the role of ideas in public policy, the paper directly contributes to the literature on the growing role of bicycles in sustainable urban transportation. The qualitative analysis is based on a systematic review of government documents and BIXI-related articles published in the Montreal French- and English-language press. To complement this analysis and provide information about behind-the-lesson drawing processes leading to the creation of BIXI, six semi-structured interviews were conducted with officials in charge of bikesharing policy in Montreal, as well as in Boston and London, England, two cities that have adopted (and adapted) the BIXI model.
This analysis stresses the role of lesson drawing and framing processes in the development of Montreal's bikesharing system. While it is clear that the technological and policy developments of BIXI illustrate systematic and positive lesson drawing, on the framing and public relations side, the Montreal experiment suggests it is politically risky to boost public expectations about the potential costs of bikesharing systems for taxpayers. In addition to their innovative and sustainable contributions to urban transportation and pro-bike strategies, bikesharing systems are public investments that are not necessary free of costs for taxpayers. Framing these systems as public investments rather than a “free ride” for taxpayers would be a more accurate, and potentially effective, way to promote their development in the context of the current push for sustainable transportation policy in cities around the world.
What this paper offers is a sociological perspective on an emerging and important policy issue, through an original combination of lesson drawing and framing perspectives on policy development. Montreal's BIXI is one of the most discussed (and exported) bikesharing systems around the world, and this is the first detailed policy analysis devoted to its genesis and politics.
In The Changing Body (Cambridge University Press and NBER, 2011), we presented a series of estimates showing the number of calories available for human consumption in…
In The Changing Body (Cambridge University Press and NBER, 2011), we presented a series of estimates showing the number of calories available for human consumption in England and Wales at various points in time between 1700 and 1909/1913. We now seek to correct an error in our original figures and to compare the corrected figures with those published by a range of other authors. We also include new estimates showing the calorific value of meat and grains imported from Ireland. Disagreements with other authors reflect differences over a number of issues, including the amount of land under cultivation, the extraction and wastage rates for cereals and pulses and the number of animals supplying meat and dairy products. We consider recent attempts to achieve a compromise between these estimates and challenge claims that there was a dramatic reduction in either food availability or the average height of birth cohorts in the late-eighteenth century.