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How Much Substance is There Behind the Concept of «Institutional Trap»?

How Much Substance is There Behind the Concept of «Institutional Trap»?

Journal of Institutional Studies, , Vol. 12 (no. 2),

The paper examines the phenomenal popularity of the ‘institutional trap’ metaphor and concept among economists and concludes that this term has lost precision and clarity. Its interpretation by economists has become overly liberal and lax. Practically any economic phenomenon can be labelled an ‘institutional trap’, so it became a buzzword. In most cases it refers to obstacles, drawbacks, inefficiencies and negative effects of institutional change, all of which already have proper names in academic literature. When studying specific cases, researchers seldom use technical reasons to prove that what they examine is a ‘trap’. The subject of a ‘trap’ is not identified, and we remain unaware about potential motivation and benefit of the entity that sets the ‘trap’. The concept of ‘institutional trap’ implies that there is a deliberate plan. It sounds like a version of a ‘conspiracy theory’, partly explaining the popularity of the concept. The author proposes a rectification of names (zhèngmíng) in order to start getting rid of redundant substances. Otherwise, academics might consider giving up the use of ‘institutional trap’ term in their research.


Keywords: «institutional trap»; institution building; institutional change; rectification of names

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