Understanding Variation in Processes of Institutional Formation

Vivien Lowndes, Maximilian Lempriere

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12 Citations (Scopus)
304 Downloads (Pure)


The article asks why institutional reforms work in one place and not another, and why old ways of doing things can prove so resilient. It argues in favour of a concept of institutional formation, which is different from ‘institutional design’ as a time-limited event or ‘institutional change’ as an open-ended historical trajectory. Institutional formation is conceptualised as an animated, nested and embedded process. A multi-level framework is developed that specifies the links between institutional actors, institutional rules and institutional contexts. The model is elaborated with reference to a case study of local government reform in England, specifically the devolution of responsibilities from central government to voluntary collaborations of elected local authorities (‘combined authorities’). The model is used to explain variation in the process of institutional formation in two different city-regions, focusing on the role of leaders, legacies and localities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-244
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number1
Early online date11 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Institutional change
  • institutional design
  • local governance
  • devolution


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