Institutional Issues workshop

Crisis and Persistence: Dynamics of institutional changes at the interface of the formal and informal institutions

On behalf of the Friday Association for Institutional Studies (a collective including members of the Birkbeck Centre for Political Economy and Institutional Studies (CPEIS), the Centre for Comparative Studies of Emerging Economies (CCSEE) at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES UCL) and the Institute for International Management at Loughborough University London) have announced the fourth annual London workshop on institutional studies, held online on 21 and 22 September 2021.

About the event

As the COVID sanitary emergency continues to unfold, and despite the glimmer of hope afforded by the vaccine roll-out in some parts of the world, we are reminded of the key role crises often play in institutional change. Indeed, they constitute opportunity windows for change and sometimes moments of critical junctures and structural breaks in the development of economic institutions (Collier and Collier 1991; Acemoglu and Robinson 2012). However, some – even major – emergencies do not seem to have the expected disruptive effect on institutional arrangements, with institutional features showing remarkable resilience in the face of major upheaval (Crouch 2011). One stream of scholarship focuses on “punctured equilibrium” models (Baumgartner and Jones 1993), “grammar of institutions” (Crawford and Ostrom 1995) or “critical junctures” (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012), that is to say on events or conditions generating big and radical institutional changes. Another stream of research has pointed out the importance of more subtle processes of institutional change, proposing theoretical tools that capture incremental, but still transformative processes of change (Mahoney and Thelen 2010; Streeck and Thelen 2005).  

Against this general backdrop, one important understudied aspect is the role of informal institutions and their interplay with formal institutions in processes of institutional change. Crises are often associated with disruption of the formal institutional order, while little attention is paid to the role of informal institutions. Informal institutions are sometimes seen as ‘second best’ (Rodrik 2008) compared to more formal institutional arrangement. However, in crisis situations when the formal institutional order breaks down or is severely challenged, informal institutions may prove crucial for economic activity to persist by providing resilience. Conversely, whether or not a crisis will provide an opportunity for formal institutional change may also depend on whether informal institutions supporting the status quo remain unchallenged or are equally shaken by the crisis. More generally, informal institutions have been conceptualised as shaping the implementation of formal institutions, making them a more fundamental driver of institutional change (Boettke, et al., 2008).

Overall, we thus contend that crises provide opportunities to further our understanding of the interplay between formal and informal institutions. Better understanding the interplay between formal and informal institutions in times of crises holds important lessons for both theory and policy making. In certain circumstances, socially desirable change does not happen although recurring crises may show the limitations of the existing system. Conversely, more research is needed on what makes institutions resilient to crises even when change appears desirable. Both issues require a better understanding of the interplay between formal and informal institutions.


Tuesday 21st September 2021 (BST British Summer Time)

Time Speaker Theme
9:45 - 10:00 Randolph L Bruno Workshop Introduction and opening Session
10:00 - 12:00 Session 1 - Chair: Gerhard Schnyder
Institutional resilience under pressure, frictions and uncertainties
10:00 - 10:25 Holly A Ritchie (International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University) “Gender and precarious institutional change in uncertain refugee settings: the role and limits of local women’s groups as institutional entrepreneurs”
10:25 - 10:50 Jerg Gutmann, Anna Lewczuk Jacek Lewkowicz, and Stefan Voigt (Institute of Law & Economics, University of Hamburg, and CESifo)

“Culture and constitutional compliance”

10:50 - 11:15 Johanna Paquin (Goethe University Frankfurt)  “Institutional Resilience and Trust”
11:15 - 11:40 Olle Hammar (Uppsala University, IFN, UCFS and UCLS)

“The Cultural Assimilation of Individualism and Preferences for Redistribution”

11:40 - 12:00 Open Discussion Q&A
12:20 - 12:40 Comfort break


Wednesday 22nd September 2021 (BST British Summer Time)

Time Speaker Theme
9:30 - 11:30 Session 2 - Chair: Dr Elodie Douarin

Institutional change in times of crisis

9:30 - 9:55 Artjoms Ivlevs and Michail Veliziotis (UWE Bristol, IZA)

“Has the Global Economic Crisis increased trust in trade unions? Evidence from the post-Socialist countries”

9:55 - 10:20 Paschalis Arvanitidis and George Papagiannitsis (Laboratory of Economic Policy & Strategic Planning Department of Economics, University of Thessaly, GREECE)

“The role of community and informal institutions in the implementation of reforms in times of crises”

10:20 - 10:45 Maribel Guerrero & Tomasz Mickiewicz (Newcastle University, Aston University) “Entrepreneurial Persistence through Informal Sector during the Pandemic”
10:45 - 11:10 Giacomo Benati and Carmine Guerriero (Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Department of Economics, University of Bologna)

Climate Change and State-Building in Developing Countries”

11:10 - 11:30 Open Discussion Q&A
11:30 - 12:00 Comfort break


Keynote Address

Time Speaker


12:00 - 13:05 Keynote Address Chair: Luca Andriani
Keynote Prof. Alena Ledeneva (University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies)

“Informal Institutions: Paradigm Shifts and Matters of Ambivalence.”

Concluding remarks from Luca Andriani, Randolph L Bruno, Elodie Douarin and Gerhard Schnyder

Registration information

Session 1

Tuesday 21 September 2021

9:45am - 12:40pm

Register here

Session 2

Wednesday 22 September 2021

9:30am - 1:05pm

Register here

For any queries, please contact Dr Gerhard Schnyder (