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“Institutional Trap”: Both a Productive Concept and a Fine Metaphor

“Institutional Trap”: Both a Productive Concept and a Fine Metaphor

Journal of Institutional Studies, , Vol. 12 (no. 3),

This paper is a reaction to the polemical article by Andrei Vernikov, How much substance is there behind the concept of "Institutional Trap"? (Journal of Institutional Studies, 2020, 12(2), pp. 25–37). This article concludes that there is no necessary scientific rigor and constructiveness of the concept of "institutional trap" (IT), and therefore it is proposed to introduce a kind of academic ostracism in the form of a scientific moratorium on this concept in the form of its ban on the pages of academic journals and in the programs of training courses. The proposed article shows that the term IT has all the properties of strictness when defined at the verbal, i.e. the most generalized, level. At the same time, it is demonstrated that when switching to specific model constructions, the concept of IT acquires mathematical rigor and applied operationality, which is confirmed by a large number of IT models developed in Russia and abroad. The article also refutes A. Vernikov's Lemma, according to which there is no economic or social phenomenon in modern Russia that cannot be declared an "institutional trap". This is done using such striking counterexamples as the liquidity trap and the Malthusian trap, which do not fall under the definition of IT. Special attention is paid to identifying differences in terms of IT, "Institute dysfunction" and "lock-in effect". Typical errors in the use of the term IT are demonstrated and it is proved that the fault for this lies with the authors who produce errors, and not with the term that does not contain any specific flaws. The thesis is put forward that the purity of the terminological field of institutional analysis should be provided by the expert community at the stage of reviewing articles, and not by methods of prohibiting scientific concepts. It is concluded that the popularity of the term IT is due to the fact that it is both a strict scientific concept and a beautiful metaphor.


Keywords: institutional trap; institutional dysfunction; efficiency; equilibrium; costs

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