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Theor Soc (2009) 38:543580 DOI 10.


How people experience and change institutions: a field guide to creative syncretism
Gerald Berk & Dennis Galvan

Published online: 31 July 2009 # Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Abstract This article joins the debate over institutional change with two propositions. First, all institutions are syncretic, that is, they are composed of an indeterminate number of features, which are decomposable and recombinable in unpredictable ways. Second, action within institutions is always potentially creative, that is, actors draw on a wide variety of cultural and institutional resources to create novel combinations. We call this approach to institutions creative syncretism. This article is in three parts. The first shows how existing accounts of institutional change, which are rooted in structuralism, produce excess complexity and render the most important sources and results of change invisible. We argue that in order to ground the theory of creative syncretism we need a more phenomenological approach, which explains how people live institutional rules. We find that grounding in John Deweys pragmatist theory of habit. The second part of the article explains Dewey and shows how the theory of habit can ground an experiential account of institutional rules. The third part presents a field guide to creative syncretism. It uses an experiential approach to provide novel insights on three problems that have occupied institutionalist research: periodization in American political development, convergence among advanced capitalist democracies, and institutional change in developing countries.

Institutions explain a lot: national variation in capitalism and the welfare state, counterintuitive paths of political development, policy variation within nation states, and why some societies grow while others stagnate. But they have less success in explaining their own transformation, the nature of informal politics and economy, entrepreneurship, and diversity within their own boundaries. As institutionalists have turned to these problems, they have questioned structural and deterministic principles
G. Berk (*) : D. Galvan University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA e-mail: D. Galvan e-mail:


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of earlier scholarship, introducing principles of ambiguity, loose coupling and incongruence into institutional rules, and creativity into institutional action. We join this conversation on institutional change with two propositions. First, institutions are composed of an unlimited number of features, which are decomposable and recombinable in unpredictable ways. Second, action in institutions is underdetermined. Actors draw on a wide variety of cultural and institutional resources to create novel combinations. We call this approach to institutions creative syncretism. Creative syncretism serves for us as shorthand for an experiential approach to institutions and how they change. We admire much in recent efforts to theorize disorder, ambiguity, and human agency. But, we question the tendency to treat change as an epiphenomenon of structure, and to attribute human action to cognitive structures deeper than institutions themselves. In response we ask: what if we switched perspective and rethought institutions experientially, phenomenologically? What if, borrowing from classical pragmatists like John Dewey and successors like Hans Joas (1993, 1996), we treated institutional life as the lived experience of rules, and institutions as always-decomposable resources, rearranged and redeployed as a result of action itself? This would mean setting aside depictions of institutions as structural constraints on action, temporal pathways of regularity, exogenous mechanisms of socialization, or ingrained patterns of cognition. It would offer an entirely different way of thinking about institutional periodization, or the convergence of institutional forms, or how they emerge to promote social change and development. Order, as well as change, would become understandable outgrowths of action in and through institutions. We call this creative syncretism because the terminology works on two levels. First, the original and most common use of the term syncretismpopular modification of religious orthodoxy through unauthorized recombination of ritual, symbols, or practicesuggests agency and unexpected change (Shaw 1999; Stewart and Shaw 1994). We recognize that the term has long been treated as synonymous with impurity or apostasy. We explicitly discard this antiquated disparagement, and make central to our conceptualization the transformative agency implicit in syncretisms transgressiveness. Syncretism as label and metaphor highlights the openness and mutability of seemingly coherent structures (like capitalism or democracy, as much as Catholicism or jazz), as well as how transformation may originate from actors in most any position. Modernity, with its dislocations, consolidations, and claims to convergence in language, culture, music, tastenot to mention political and economic institutionsis a project of promoting orthodoxies. Syncretism, we argue, is the natural human response to it. But creative syncretism rests on deeper foundations. It is shorthand for a phenomenological way of making sense of structure and change. Creative syncretism is rooted in the idea that institutional structure is not a script or a schema, but a skill. We draw on the work of John Dewey to argue that action always takes place in relation to prior rules and practices, which serve not as guides or constraints, but as mutable raw material for new action. What we call the experience of living under rules is really an experience of living through rules, of not just playing by the rules, but actually playing the rules as if they were instruments. That play is a form of ongoing potential improvisation with regard to the rules

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themselves. Improvisation can be blocked or fall into latency, which can produce routine. But routine is not the default; it is the exception and necessitates a different sort of explanation than it receives in structural accounts of institutions. Orthodoxy and order can exist, but they take real work to maintain. Institutions do not just stay on path by inertia. They veer off, jump tracks, or break down, not because of outside forces, or because change is functionally necessary, or because elites choose it, but because there are people living in and through institutional structures. Whenever there is living, there is the potential, indeed the likelihood, for perturbation. This means, for institutions, creative syncretism. This article begins by exploring recent efforts to theorize institutional change from a structuralist perspective. We show how three forms of institutionalism move toward the common problematics of structural indeterminacy and the role of human agency. Serious engagement with these issues, has rendered once parsimonious and clear theoretical accounts complex and sometimes contradictory. We then ask what if. What if we thought of institutions in experiential, phenomenological terms? We turn briefly to three authors whose work anticipates creative syncretism, and then turn to the task of laying a foundation for our approach in pragmatist theory. We ground creative syncretism in Deweys concepts of habit, impulse and deliberation, and lay out a framework for seeing institutions, change and order from inside out, from the point of view of lived experience and through rules-in-use. The second half of our article is a field guide. We take up three issues that have preoccupied institutionalists: periodization and temporal change in American political development, institutional borrowing or spatial diffusion across national boundaries in advanced industrial democracies, and the endogenous sources of institutional change in third-world development. We show how an experiential approach, centered on creative syncretism, adds clarity, depth, and empirical novelty to the study of institutions.

Institutionalism and the turn to ambiguity Until recently, the study of institutions in political science, sociology and related fields has centered on order, on how institutional rules channel behavior and ensure predictability and stability in human interaction and organizational life. This was true for what is sometimes called the old institutionalism. It became even more evident once the behavioral revolution and radical critiques submerged the study of institutions into macro-structural explanations (Orren and Skowronek 2004; Adams et al. 2005). Douglass North (1981), Theda Skocpol et al. (1985), James G. March and Johan Olsen (1989) and others who coined the new institutionalism shifted analysis towards the conditions under which institutions emerge, function, and change. For some, this meant an emphasis on rationality in the resolution of collective action problems (Greif 1989; Bates 1993); for others, the durability of organizations, practices and rules as historical constructs (Thelen and Steinmo 1992; Clemens and Cook 1999). By the 1990s, a rough consensus emerged around the importance of time and path dependency, emphasizing crucial periods of great fluidity followed by


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long stretches of stability (Collier and Collier 1991; Pierson 2000; Orloff 1993; Skocpol 1992; Clemens 1997). Some of the most vibrant work in institutionalist research presses the boundaries of structural necessity and path dependency, turning instead to gaps in order, the importance of agency, and more complex accounts of structure as a source of institutional disorder.1 We take inspiration from this scholarship, and present below three works that seek to move the new institutionalism to more fully appreciate structural ambiguity, change, and agency: Streeck and Thelens efforts to theorize mechanisms of institutional change, Orren and Skowroneks theory of intercurrence, and Powell and DiMaggios exploration of loose coupling. Sociologist Wolgang Streeck and political scientist Kathleen Thelen (2005) provide among the most comprehensive and representative efforts to rethink path dependency and structuralism in advanced capitalist democracies. Institutions, they argue, are ordering systems, which exercise authority through the formation and application of legitimate rules. Streeck and Thelen call attention to imperfections in the application or enforcement of rules (ambiguity, cognitive limits, conflicting ends, limits to social control). These imperfections ensure slippage between formal institutions (defined by their rules) and practice. And it is in that slippage that they locate agency. Streeck and Thelen theorize agency in terms of five types of institutional change: displacement, layering, drift, conversion, and exhaustion. Each is made possible by the slippage between rules and practice. In displacement, new models emerge and diffuse, calling into question previously taken for granted organizational forms and practices. In layering, reformers graft new elements onto old core features of an institution. But in time, the grafts take over and become dominant. In drift, institutional agents fail to adapt to new situations by recalibrating rules or renegotiating the relationships between institutional actors. As a result, institutional authority and routine atrophies. In conversion, the gaps between institutionalized rules and their local enactment open space for redirecting existing institutional instruments to new goals, functions and purposes. Finally, institutions can slowly break down through exhaustion. Streeck and Thelen open the door to ongoing institutional change, but their structuralist commitments impose two limitations. First, they treat ambiguity and transformation as epiphenomenal features of structure itself. Their categories of change (displacement, layering, etc.) are, on closer inspection, careful descriptions of structural gaps. For each gap of a particular shape, we find a kind of agency (mechanism of change) appropriate for gaps of that configuration. When there is displacement, the mechanism of change is defection from old to new rule systems,

For many working in the field, the absence of a theory of change meant new and creative explanations of institutional disorder, incremental change, and indeterminacy. Such scholarship has yielded many powerful insights with regard to: rule ambiguity and political entrepreneurship (Hall and Taylor 1996; Sikkink 1991; Blyth 2002; Parsons 2003; Scheingate 2003; Lieberman 2002); the ongoing expression of grievances by losers (Weir 2005); lost alternatives (Schneiberg 2007; Sabel and Zeitlin 1997); redundant features (Crouch and Farrell 2004; Crouch and Keune 2005); layering of old and new institutions (Thelen 2004; Orren and Skowronek 1994, 2002, 2004; Shickler 2001; Sil 2002); the coexistence of traditional and modern institutions (Dunning and Pop-Eleches 2004); change driven by quasi-parameters (Greif and Laitin 2004).

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from Keynesianism to vestigial liberalism in 1970s Britain, for example. If institutions are layered, people invest in differential growth that advances, say, private welfare systems over publicly funded safety nets. There is nothing empirically lacking with these descriptions of types of change, or the associated mechanisms by which they take place in particular structural conditions. Its just that this is not a theory of how institutions change, but rather a thick description of structural variation and the most common responses to it. The more we extend this strategy to new terrain (Streeck and Thelen look only at advanced political economies), the more we expect to find additional, case-specific descriptions of distinct patterns of structural change. Each of these, like the five above, would suggest corresponding forms of response to different structural circumstances. Each instance is likely to produce empirically rich and accurate descriptions of the many ambiguities in institutional structure. The result will be a verdant blooming of descriptions and corresponding mechanisms of change, but not a theory of how agency operates and change takes place within institutions. Second, their exceptions are so empirically compelling, that one wonders what exactly is left of the depiction of institutions as rule bound ordering systems. In effect, the strategy of classifying mechanisms of change implies that rules are applied with legitimacy and authority, except when they are not. The more exceptions and mechanisms are specified, the more it appears as though authority and legitimacy might be rare. Moreover, its plausible that exceptions always proliferate in a world of general, universally applicable, impersonal rules. The more abstract the rule, the less it will address the specificities of a particular experience, and the more it will generate uncertainty, ambiguity and exception. Critical legal theory calls this the indeterminacy problem (Kelman 1987, 4648, 245246, 257262). Rather than theorize exceptions as structural gaps, or try to arbitrate a debate over whether indeterminacy is the norm or the exception, we wonder what would happen if we reconceptualized rules as people experience them. Understanding the way we live with and use rules will, we argue, help us understand the sources of both order and indeterminacy. In US political development, Orren and Skowronek (1994, 2002, 2004) push the point further. They challenge institutionalists to theorize politics in the fullness of time. They focus not on gaps in institutional structure, but on the way institutions themselves generate structural disorder. For them, political orders always consist of multiple, incongruous institutions created at different times in response to different problems. Moreover, because state institutions always attempt to project authority, they inevitably abrade with one another or other institutions in society. Orren and Skowronek call this phenomenon intercurrence. In the United States, judicial rules designed to govern property and contract under simple market capitalism persist alongside bureaucratic ones designed to cope with the dilemmas of managerial capitalism. The result is layers of conflicting rules and norms, which result in disorderly conditions that provide opportunities for leaders or political entrepreneurs to exploit contradictions and imagine alternatives. Orren and Skowronek perturb the structuralist foundations of institutionalism. Disorder generates opportunity for imagination, entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity. But we dont know much about how these activities work. Although people follow rules, Orren and Skowronek suggest the rules are multiple, sometimes


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in conflict. So how do people imaginatively deal with this situation? Do they pick a rule, reconcile divergent imperatives, combine, reinterpret? If institutions routinely produce disorder through intercurrence, then were left to wonderis rule following the best way to understand institutions? Is it rule following, except when there are exceptions, a la Streeck and Thelen? But what if exceptionality becomes the rule? Orren and Skowronek helpfully raise this fertile conundrum. We attempt to surmount the rule-exception dichotomy by reconsidering institutions as lived experiences. Finally, in the sociology of organizations, we see a similar trajectory of greater appreciation of structural indeterminacy and possibilities for agency and change. An old school emphasized processes of normative socialization: organizations were of course a key site for political contestation, but in the end, they ordered behavior best when they taught and enforced widely-held cultural norms. A new school best exemplified by DiMaggio and Powells landmark 1991 edited volume rejected symbolic and functional consistency within each institution, depicting instead a loose coupling of the standardized components of any organization (rules, role descriptions, functional divisions of labor, symbolic apparatus) (14). Organizations composed of loosely coupled parts vary widely in their ability to order behavior, ensure rule-following or socialize members. Loose coupling makes agency a central, rather than peripheral feature of organizational analysis. When organizational fields are unstable and established practices ill formed (30) we should turn to politics, interests, and collective action, to understand change. Moreover, ambiguity is not simply an outgrowth of gaps or decay in institutional structure, as in Streeck and Thelen, because DiMaggio and Powell see institutional life through the lens of cognitive psychology. When people form organizations or follow rules, they deploy shared mental maps, taken-for-granted archetypes for behavior, such standardized cultural forms as accounts, typifications, and cognitive models (27). There is no one-to-one correspondence between cognitive schema and organizations. As schemas are partial, multiple, shifting, so too are organizations, which can thus be understood as loosely coupled. With this characterization, however, DiMaggio and Powell substitute an old structuralism for a new one, and unwittingly short-sell agency. The loosely coupled parts of organizations rest on cognitive schemas, described as higher level structures, that are taken for granted, producing unreflective activity. Cognitive schemas as inheritances from culture, the past, or long-sedimented practices are thus fairly impervious to agency and transformation. Instead of embedding institutional life in a new, geologically more stable structure (cognition and its schemas), we ask: what would it mean to assume, along with most cultural anthropology of the last several decades, that these cognitive frames and cultural codes are themselves rather mutable and subject to political contestation? This need not imply a rational choice optimization logic depicting institutions as the results of intentional actions, as DiMaggio and Powell fear. In between deep structure and reified individual rationality lies a more phenomenological approach to rules (and cognitive schemes) as they are lived and experienced. In organization theory, US political development and political economy, we applaud the widespread attention to the inherent indeterminacy of institutions, and the search for new ways to theorize agency in institutional change. Given the structuralist commitments of neo-institutionalism, these efforts read agency off gaps in structure, as a

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function of layering, or an outgrowth of alternative structures. We follow this lead, but suggest that as long as institutionalism remains tied to structuralist preconceptions, clear and compelling theorization of change and action will remain elusive.

What if we rethought institutions: antecedents We thus shift ground. We ask: what if we shifted to the experience of living, practicing or doing rules? Seen from the perspective of situated practice, rules are not so much ambiguous (that is, constraints that permit more than one course of action), as they are partial guides to action, because lifeexperiencealways overflows their authority. This means that rules are incessantly corrigible, always open to syncretic recombination. We are not alone in this project. Among others (Stark 1996; Stark and Bruzst 1998; Fung and Wright 2003; Strang and Meyer 1993; Hwang and Powell 2005; Sewell 1992; Scott 1998; Smith 1992; Zeitlin and Herrigel 2000), we take inspiration and guidance from the work of political economist Charles Sabel, legal theorist Roberto Unger and organization theorist Karl Weick, who also draw on pragmatist philosophy and constructivist social theory to make sense of institutional or organizational change. Where we hope to develop a theory of creative syncretism to account for diversity and change, Sabel focuses on institutional learning, Unger on the disentrenchment of legal structures, and Weick on organizational innovation through managerial improvisation. In many ways, their theories prefigure our own. Sabels (1994) project is to understand how institutions facilitate learning, which he considers the source of innovation and change. In doing so, he writes that people experience rules both as social facts and as guides to deliberation. On the one hand, concurring with Powell and DiMaggio, rules powerfully shape what individuals regard as desirable and legitimate in taking their world for granted. On the other hand, what Streeck and Thelen call exceptional, Sabel considers ubiquitous: rules are never so precise or persuasive as to determine action. Individuals must interpret rules to bring them to bear on their actual situation. There is nothing in the cognitive or rule-following theories of institutions, however, that explains how this is done. For Sabel, it is the sociable and reflexive nature of human beings that guides individual interpretation. It proceeds, he writes, through argumentative encounters in which the individual attempts to establish an equilibrium between his or her views and social standards by recasting both. It is this socially reflexive capacity that makes it possible for people in institutions to innovate by creating new interpretive possibilities for action. Thus, rules-in-action do not constrain action in Sabels view, so much as they enable discussion, experimentation, and institutional learning (156). Similarly, Unger (1987) conceptualizes the experience of lived rules as inescapably dual in character: they make human coordination possible, but become the locus of individual improvisation; they are the focus of passionate human attachments, but also protection against the domination that people risk from those attachments; and they are experienced as comforting sources of conformity, but also oppressive reasons for defiance. Unlike mainstream institutionalism, in which rulefollowing is the norm, Unger argues that their guidance is palpable but always partial. Life inevitably and routinely overflows the strictures of rules or cognitive schemas; and it is in that space that imagination takes hold. Imagination, as Unger


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understands it, is not a separate faculty, which kicks in during crises or when all else falls apart, but an integral quality of our mental faculties: the quality of seeing more things and making more numerous and varied connections among ideas about things than any prospective list of rules or schemas can countenance (204). In a passage that anticipates our discussion of Deweys notion of habit, Unger writes We sometimes act as if our shared institutional and imaginative context did not in fact bind us. We hold on to deviant examples of human association, often the leftovers of past or rejected bids to establish a settled ordering of social life. We pass occasionally and often unexpectedly from context-respecting disputes to context defying struggles (7). Perhaps Karl Weicks (2001) theory of organizational improvisation is closest to our own approach to creative syncretism. Like Unger and Sabel, Weick understands organizational rules or principles through lived experience, which always overflows the rules themselves. But he also explicitly demonstrates how organizations are never monoliths, but are made up of segments, which can be recombined by innovative bricoleurs. Thus, creativity and recombination are central to his theory of organizational change. Weick imagines organizations not with architectural metaphors, but with experiential and practical ones. They are not designs that house people, but rather space in which people collectively puzzle about their world and give meaning to their collective projects. Life in organizations, he writes, is less like the enactment of rules or schemas, pre-given, than it is like a process of collective cartography, where the terrain is never fully known, the destination changes, and the terrain itself shifts. Organized people, nevertheless, make provisional maps that provide collective meaning of the experiences they share. But sensemaking in organizations, Weick adds, is always segmented. Organizations divide tasks and write separate maps that accord the segments different meanings. Segmentation also means that it is impossible to ever get a single, unified sense of the organization or to redesign it from the top down when it faces unfamiliar challenges. Instead, Weick (2001, 62-64) thinks that organizational redesign is more like a process of bricolage than of making architectural blueprints to control change in its details. People look back to the intimate knowledge they have of the parts of the organization and recombine those parts to cobble together a novel response to a new problem. Only in retrospect do they give the new combination a coherent form and name. Unger and Sabel go further than the structuralist theorists in showing how imagination works and how it arises during the normal experience of living in institutions. Weick ties the human capacity for improvisation to the loose coupling of institutional parts. All three make a break with conventional accounts of institutions but in the service of slightly different projects than our own. They develop a phenomenological account of institutions in order to open new theoretical terrain and possibilities in the world (learning, emancipation and better management). We share the theoretical project, but want to show how this same phenomenological turn would enhance the rich, empirically grounded, often historical tradition of institutionalism in political science and sociology. We build an alternative experiential foundation under institutionalism in order to address current tensions within this field of knowledge. Our goal is to try a new way to bridge the artificial

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divide between regularity and perturbation, structure and agency. We believe this can harmonize some of the cacophony thats arisen as institutionalists proliferate casespecific mechanisms of change, unearth the layering of history, diagram the coupling of parts, or shift causality to structuring structures. Its not that these insights are flawed, as weve noted above. Its that they have unwittingly made institutionalism a noisy hall of competing and contradictory adjustments to what had once been more parsimonious (if reductionist) models and arguments. Most importantly, regrounding the study of institutional change and diversity from the point of view of lived experience, as opposed to durable structure and exceptional openings, will improve our empirical accounts of what people do in and to institutions. This is the purpose of the latter half of this article and the main goal of our project, which rightly provides the subtitle of our work. But first we turn to Dewey to ground our experiential account of institutional life.

Rethinking institutions: habit In Deweys pragmatism, institutions are composed of widespread uniformities of habit.2 Habits, in our view, stand in for rule-in-action. They anchor an experiential account of how people follow rules, use rules, and perturb rules in ways that are never exactly the same. Habits live and thrive in ambiguity. And they cannot help but necessitate deliberation and their own transformation.3
The concept of habit has a history, which is beyond the scope of this article and fully documented in the work of Charles Camic (1986). Of particular importance for us, Camic depicts habit as part of a lost alternative in social theory, an approach that integrated, rather than dichotomized, structure and agency. By the interwar years behavioral psychologists, bearing the apparent authority of the physical sciences, narrowed the meaning of habit to neurologically determined action. In response, sociologists largely abandoned the term, turning instead to attitude and purposeful choice to conceptualize agency. In Twentieth Century social theory that internal, cognitive, individual framing of agency would evolve into rational choice theory as the main alternative to historical, cultural, and other structuralisms. By contrast, Camic shows that at the time sociology abandoned habit, Dewey was laying out an alternative that used the concept to integrate inherited structure and ongoing reflective choice. Others have picked up Deweys thread in various ways (Joas 1996; Bourdieu 1977; Giddens 1984). In rethinking institutions, we find it useful to go back to Dewey to recover his alternative approach and ground our theory of creative syncretism in a concept originally intended to overcome the intractable dichotomy between structure and agency. 3 We draw on Deweys concept of habit, rather than Bourdieus (1977) closely related habitus, because we find in the former greater sensitivity to ongoing creativity and experimentation as features of action itself. Habitus tells us much about the alignment of external conditions (field), inner orientation, and behavior. In Bourdieus work, agency consists mainly of aligning and realigning action to a pre-existing habitus that embeds in peoples cognition and bodies the structural arrangements of a social field. That field of course changes and in response, the habitus will adapt, resulting in new internalizations of a new field. Many who apply Bourdieu follow his suggestions that autonomous change of habitus is also possible, and that this is the source of creativity and reinterpretation beyond adjustment to the external conditions of the field (Sewell 1992; Powell and DiMaggio 1991). We see this potential in Bourdieu, but agree with Butler (1999) that Bourdieu does more to theorize habitus as a mechanism for the ongoing internalization of adjustments in the context or field than as a site for creative action itself. The findings of our own research conform more fully with the Deweyian account presented here, in which habit is both a repertoire of prior patterns of action (a collection of parts and oddments) and the will to rearrange this repertoire to craft new action (a new arrangement of parts) in response to circumstances that are never really twice the same. Habit balances the constraints of a limited collection of parts with rummaging, cobbling and the inventiveness of action. Bourdieus habitus leans more to the former.


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In Human Nature and Conduct (2002 [1922]) Dewey describes habit as an acquired predisposition to ways or modes of response, which is influenced by prior activity, is projective and dynamic, and operates in somesubdued form even when not dominating activity (4042). Four aspects of habit help us ground our experiential account of institutions. Habits are situational, integrating the body and worldly materials. They are social and historical. They propel action in a way that blurs distinctions such as means-ends, thought-practice, or structure-agency. And they cannot be reduced to routine. Put in more familiar terms: institutions are composed of rules that are not enacted schemas, but lived skills. Institutions are social because theyre temporal. Institutions are not constraints on action, theyre made through action. Order is not a prior or necessary condition of institutions, but a possible result of particular forms of experiencing rules in action. First, habit is embodied and situational. It is experienced and expressed through the body in ways that make use of and incorporate worldly materials. Just as involuntary physiological functions are more than the action of the bodybreathing is an affair of the air as truly of the lungswalking implicates the ground as well as the legs (14) acquired habits also embody worldly materials. They involve skill of sensory and motor organs and craft learned through discipline, repetition and manifest technique. We embody the material world in the acquisition of skill, as we learn, in part, from and through the materials themselves how they are to be handled, cut, shaped, and used. Thus, we should laugh at anyone who said that he was master of stone working, but that the art was cooped up within himself, and in no wise dependent on support from objects and assistance from tools (15). Thus, habit is not action upon the environment. Worldly materials intrude. Habits are ways of using and incorporating the environment in which the latter has its say as surely as the former. Thus, habit challenges conventional notions of institutional action, which privilege exogenous rules and abstract schemas. Habit makes institutions a matter of skill, not script. Thus, the skillful jurist does not mechanically apply precedent to new situations, but creates analogies out of a body of law and a world of facts. Likewise, inter-ethnic relations follow neither epic tropes of antagonism nor cool calculation of gains and losses. Rather, ethnic difference is subject to improvisational hailing and experiments in fictive kinship conducive to new forms of recognition and identification4. People do not follow rules or enact cognitive schemas, as much as they learn how to align situations, actions and expectations. Second, habits are social and historical: conduct is shared such that a society of some group of fellow-men is always necessary before and after the fact of conduct. This is not an ontological statement for Dewey (although he does think it a mistake to see habits as the aggregation of individual practices). It is impossible, he writes, to arbitrate the metaphysical debate over whether human nature is social or individual. Instead, he says that habits are social because they are always historical: they grow out of earlier, similar, efforts to align situation, action and expectation. The complete legacy of prior habitcustom or institutionsis openly available and

See, for example, West African joking kinship or Obamas March 2008 race speech (Launay 2006; Obama 2008).

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shared. We call upon and use that legacy when we act in any new situation, giving all action an inherently social cast. As discussed below, present use of the shared repertoire of prior habit also makes action inherently a process of narrative story telling. Third, habits are propulsive. They are demands for certain kinds of activity, which constitute the self. In any intelligible sense of the word, Dewey writes, habits are will. They form effective desires and furnish us with our working capacities. For the will, Dewey argues, cannot be formed independent of action. It is not prior to habit, set down by individual preference, by moral compulsion, functional necessity, normative agreement or by institutional constraint. Nor is habit the means to a prior end. It is, at once, the discovery and rediscovery of the will through skillful application of principle in the world. Charles Lindblom (1990) calls the propulsive nature of habit probing volitions. People, he writes, do not have preferences prior to actionor choosing means. They discover and revise their volitions through action. Fourth, habits are not, by definition, routines, the mere repetition of what has been done before, because the alignment of skill, rule and material is never exactly the same. To be sure, habits may devolve into routine, compulsive action, or enslavement to old ruts. But this is not, as many institutionalists tell us, because routine economizes on past practice, locks in previous commitments, or is functional. Rather, as we show below, Dewey thinks routine is not the norm, but an anomalous breakdown of habit resulting from authoritarian education or domination born of the artificial separation of thought and action. Thus, seen from the perspective of habit, institutional rules and standards are powerful forces. Dewey writes that they reconstruct. They open new avenues of endeavor and impose new labors. But they do not determine behavior, thought, or social relations in any direct sense. From the point of view of mainstream institutionalism, Dewey leaves us in limbo; he leaves us with questions: "What authority have standards and ideas? What claim have they upon us? How we are going to use and be used by these things? This is where Dewey wants us to be. This is habit. It is how we live rules (81).

Rethinking institutions: habit-in-motion By living rules, we put habit and institutions themselves in a state of constant, creative flux. The key to understanding this flux, to setting habit in motion and seeing institutions syncretically, is the link between habit and Deweys concept of impulse. This section explains how impulses perturb habits and presents the three ways people use impulse (action in the moment, deliberation, and yielding to routine). We show how creativity is manifest or latent in all three (including routine), and argue that routine is not the characteristic mode of institutional action. Habit understood in terms of impulse yields habit-in-motion, a theorization of the oftmentioned notion rules-in-use, and a means to rethink institutions in phenomenological terms as both the raw material and the outcome of creative syncretism. Habits do not just come from nowhere. They emerge in relation to impulses, which are original unlearned activity (9293), or more precisely "highly flexible


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starting points for activities which are diversified according to the ways in which they are used" (95). Impulses although first in time are never primary in fact (89), because they have no meaning until human interaction and learning makes them into habits. Babies have impulsesto eat, to defecate, to be held close to human skin but babies are dependent beings. Very quickly, if they are to survive, they come to understand and begin to manage the social meaning of their crying, the habituated, socially determined means to induce responses from the adults they need for their care. At one level, habit domesticates impulse. But this is not the whole story: impulse sometimes overflows the structure of existing habits, sometimes refuses to be domesticated, and is central to how we understand the constant reformulation of habit itself. When reformulation happens, impulses become the pivots upon which the re-organization of activities turn, they are agencies of deviation, giving new direction to old habits and changing their quality (93). In other words, impulses challenge existing habits. The interplay between impulses and the prior repertoire of habits is the key to understanding perturbation and ambiguity on the one hand, and routine and order on the other. There are three main pathways of interaction between impulse and habit: raw action, deliberation, and routine. First, people may simply act in the moment, driven by a surging, explosive dischargeblind, unintelligent (p. 156). Impulsive action is important, and clearly creative in making new paths of action. But by itself it is often ephemeral, reactive or destructive, rather than reconstructive, with regard to habit. Second, actors can respond to impulse deliberatively. When actors deliberate, impulse may: become a factor coordinated intelligently with others in a continuing course of action. Thus a gust of anger may be converted into an abiding conviction of social injustice to be remedied, and furnish the dynamic to carry the conviction into execution (p. 156). Deliberation involves the application of reflective imagination to sort out competing paths of action suggested by a new impulse, circumstances, and prior habits. We respond to impulse-in-context by drawing on a repertoire of partially salient ways of responding to similarly shaped circumstances from the past. These prior habits exhibit both the onward tendency and the objective conditions which [are] incorporated within (182) all habit. Prior habits may apply only up to a point in new circumstances, and may not represent complete or coherent expectations for action because old habits as far as they are checked, are also broken into objects which define the obstruction of ongoing activity. When we deliberate, we work in effect as Levi-Strauss bricoleur (1966), rummaging through the available resources of partially relevant habits, whole and broken, as well as salient impulses, to cobble together a new solution, in Deweys terms, a path of action. When we deliberate, we consider a set of already presituated lines of possible action, as: each conflicting habit and impulse takes its turn in projecting itself upon the screen of imagination. It unrolls a picture of its future history, of the career it would have if it were given head (190).

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The projection process is not a process of selection, but of recombinatory bricolage, of putting together creative new possibilities, an experiment in making various combinations of selected elements of habits and impulses (190). With regard to institutions, we call this deliberative process of decomposing and recombining habits creative syncretism. Deliberative creativity is not a process of planning or goal-seeking outside of everyday practice. It is a feature of practice itself, of living in the world, with impulses and through existing habits. Thus, for Dewey, an artists creativity is part of the everyday acquisition of a skill, which happens not for any instrumental reason but simply because the practice of skill is more important to him than practice for skill (7172). Deliberative creativity is also not merely an individual matter. As Mead puts it, taking the attitude or role of the other is a constitutive feature of every action, individual and collective (Cook 2006, 7274). Deliberation is inherently social because it is temporal. The projector screen doesnt show utility functions for each of my solitary choices of possible action. It plays out new lines of action in light of prior ways, hopes and examples or combinations of these old actions. Where do these come from? They come from a socially shared repertoire of relevant impulses and habits. Its no accident that to describe the social nature of deliberation, we think of lines of action or story lines. Deliberation is narrative making. As Somers (1994) writes, we make sense of who we are and how we are situated in institutions through narrative. While temporal, our story lines are never linear or determined by the past. Instead, as we craft real resolutions to the practical problems raised by impulse, we contribute concrete episodes and vignettes to new, unfolding tales about ourselves and others. Story-making underscores the inherent sociability of deliberation: contributing to shared story lines offers meaning that is at once individual (my character acts) and social (my character acts in a tale connected to the actions and reactions of others). Because these story lines are constitutive of cultural meaning, deliberation as we understand it is always a cultural process. It reworks the meaning of institutional custom, as it recombines habits in creative experiments. Third, actors can respond to impulse through compulsive routine, or actions that reinforce old habits. Dewey thinks there is nothing particularly natural or inevitable about routine. It occurs only when actors separate habit from thought, action from the possibility of deliberation. In fact, he considers routine, as such, an artificial separation of mind and body, in which actors yield to unintelligent habit (77). For Dewey, this is an empirical observation about institutions and action, not merely a normative position. Curiously, from a Deweyian point of view, the primary focus of mainstream institutionalism is this peculiar and artificial sub-type in the life of habit. But, this treats the part for the whole and naturalizes routine, which is actually just a particular species of human agency. Impulse and environmental change guarantee that it takes effort to separate habit from thought or deliberation from action. We face new situations and new desires all the time, and cannot help but employ these in the perturbation, sometimes minor, sometimes major, of habit. In Deweys view, routine necessitates explanation,


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because deliberation always remains latent and possible. Dewey offers two5 salient reasons why habit sometimes is separated from thought. First, the separation of thought from habit can result from education and socialization highlighting only the stocks of information adults wish to impose and the ways of acting they want to reproduce. Second, the separation may result from domination, when those who wish a monopoly of social power find desirable the separation of habit and thought [enabling] them to do the thinking and planning, while others remain docile (72). Let us be clear: socialization and domination are not structuralist deus ex machinae that lurk beneath Deweys conceptualization, which determine when habit is creative and when it degenerates into routine. As our empirical examples in the second half of this article demonstrate, it is not possible to read from asymmetrical power or mechanisms of socialization the emergence of routine. Even in the face of such forces, actors retain the capacity for creativity, and, as we will see, exercise that capacity to transform institutions. Often, analysts and the powerful alike dismiss these transformations, as inconsequential irregularities or transitional stages toward normalization. It is not possible to read routine from structure because action is always pregnant with creativity and routine. Creativity is so fundamental to action that even in contexts of great subordination or hegemonic socialization, actors can recognize their capacity to perturb and escape routine. Scott (1985) illustrates this with his explorations of shirking, sabotage, and other weapons of the weak. Routine can result from certain forms of socialization and power asymmetries. But it is not a necessary consequence of them. This is because, for Dewey, the separation of habit and thought (like the separation of mind and body or theory and practice) is never really sustainable. Thought without ordinary habits of action, he writes, lacks a means of execution. In lacking application, it also lacks tests, criteria. Hence it is condemned to a separate realm. If we try to act upon it our actions are clumsy, forced. Habit without thought or compulsive routineis artificially undiscerning; the more it faces new circumstances and impulses, the more it produces unintended consequences, confusion of expectation and outcome. Likewise, institutionalism without habitrules only understood as routinescan account for human creativity and change only through a series of ad hoc and cumbersome mechanisms to derive disorder from order, creativity from structure and position. The crucial question is an experiential one, not a structural one. Impulse is always active, and it always throws up expectations associated with habits. Depending on the particular and distinct nature of experience in any given moment, for any given actor, situated in an always shifting repertoire of prior habits, impulse may rule the day, it may trigger deliberation, or it may default

Dewey offers a third reason that we find somewhat unsatisfying: rigid custom can force routine and undermine experimentation. For Dewey, this is a sociological rather than a cultural or characterological condition. In the Orient, Dewey suggests that thought is submerged in habitnot because of any essentially Oriental psychology, but because of a nearer background of rigid and solid customs (61). We applaud Deweys effort to distinguish the sociological production of rigid custom from essentialist notions of cultural or psychological determinacy. But in the end, a legacy of rigid custom is nothing more than a history of failures to engage in deliberation, an accumulation of routinized action. As an explanation for why habit can disintegrate into routine, this is a tautology.

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into routine, with no deliberation. The complex of experiential circumstanceseven for one actoris never twice the same, and so it is impossible to read off of circumstances, or structure, whether deliberation will take place or not. As institutionalists, then, we need not turn to gaps in structure to explain ambiguity or claim that rules or organizations have agency to explain the reproduction of order. We need not turn to quasi-cognitive mechanisms that mediate action and field of play producing forms of agentless agency. We need not artificially separate structural conditions from exceptional openings for imagination. We need not hold agency at arms length for fear that it entails an absolute force of unfettered pure choice. Shifting to a practice-phenomenological approach to institutions lets us use habit to account for the lived experience of perturbation and change, as well as the reproduction of routine and order as lived experience. We can thus tackle the basic puzzle of institutionalism, both of Deweys day, and our own: The problem of how those established, more or less deeply grooved systems of interaction which we call social groups, big and small, modify the activities of individuals who perforce are caught up within them, and how the activities of component individuals remake and redirect previously established customs (60). We tackle this puzzle through an account of experience and practice. This enables us to understand how living in complex and changing contexts (of modernity, late capitalism, postcolonialism, etc) affords ongoing possibilities of syncretic transformation, as Dewey suggested with such prescience in 1922: because of present mobility and intermingling of customs, an individual is now offered an enormous range of custom-patterns, and can exercise personal ingenuity in selecting and rearranging their elements (75). We draw on Dewey to shift to a practice-phenomenonological approach to institutions, referring to institutions as always recombinatory, subject to ongoing dynamics of perturbation and reformulation we call creative syncretism. As described in the sections that follow, we think this shift clarifies issues that remain murky in more structuralist accounts of change, simplifying efforts to make sense of institutional order and breakdown, as well as periodization, convergence, and development.

A field guide to creative syncretism The remainder of this article applies the concept of creative syncretism to three empirical problems that have pre-occupied institutionalists: periodization, convergence, and development. By comparing a prominent institutionalist example to a creative syncretist example in each category, we show how our approach resolves institutionalist conundrums, provides greater parsimony, and opens novel lines of empirical inquiry. The first example addresses the problem of historical periodization in American political development. We compare two studies of national state building in the US. The first, Stephen Skowroneks Building a New American State (1982), anticipates the theory of intercurrence; while the second, Gerald Berks Louis Brandeis and the


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Making of Regulated Competition (2009), applies the theory of creative syncretism. We shall see how, instead of rigid conflict between institutions rooted in different eras (intercurrence), Berk demonstrates how creative actors reached across the boundaries of time to craft institutions (temporal syncretism), which have remained invisible to institutionalists. The second example addresses the debate in political science and economic sociology over whether advanced industrial democracies are converging toward a single form of national capitalism. We compare two studies of the diffusion of liberal institutions in Germanys nonliberal market economy. The first, Kozo Yamamura and Wolfgang Streecks edited volume, The End of Diversity? (2003), applies the mechanisms of institutional change outlined by Streeck and Thelen above to the question of whether German institutions can survive the pressures for marketization. The second, Gary Herrigels (2008) Rules and Roles: Ambiguity, Experimentation and New Forms of Stakeholderism in Germany, adopts a pragmatist perspective to show how the pressures for economic change have led local actors in Germany to recompose institutional rules in a plethora of creative experiments, which, have been invisible or incomprehensible to institutionalists. The third example addresses the debate among political scientists, sociologists and anthropologists over what sorts of institutional processes promote positive social change in developing nations. We compare two works on the changing nature of property in Africa. The first, Jean Ensminger and Jack Knights (1997) study of the Orma in northeast Keyna, demonstrates how structural conditions, which shape competition and bargaining among peasants, have led to the adoption of private property institutions. The second, Dennis Galvans The State Must Be Our Master Of Fire (2004), demonstrates how creative syncretists in the Serer region of Senegal decomposed colonial efforts to impose private property and recombined them with local cosmologies to create a vibrant land pawning system. The multiple meanings of rules as lived elude the structuralist account, while Galvans experiential approach reveals innovative and overlooked forms of property rights. Periodization in American political development Making sense of institutions in the fullness of time necessitates grappling with the problem of periodization. In the path dependent version of periodization, institutional histories are marked by long periods of elaboration on existing rules, punctuated by bursts of radical change. Although this approach facilitates periodization, it lacks an endogenous account of change. In the intercurrent version of periodization, there are clear distinctions between eras, but multiple, layered, and incongruous institutions mark every period, and the conflicts between them provide the impetus to change. Periods are distinguished by conflicts that result in durable changes in authority. Finally, in our version of institutional history, periodization becomes less important, because it is always possible for creative actors to find resources for recomposition by reaching across temporal boundaries. Time provides resources, instead of cordoning institutions off from one another. This section compares two accounts of national state building in the US: Skowroneks path breaking study of railroad regulation, the military, and civil service reform and Berks recent study of the Federal Trade Commission. We choose

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Skowroneks work, because it is an excellent example of intercurrence (even though it was written a decade before Orren and he named the concept). We choose Berks study of the FTC, because it covers similar ground from the perspective of creative syncretism. For the sake of comparison, we limit our account of Skowroneks book to the case of railroad regulation. Skowroneks narrative is organized in two periods, each structured by the layering of institutional orders. In the first, administrative innovations were stitched onto an old order of courts and parties and subordinated to their purposes. He calls this patchwork. In the second, state structure was reconstituted and public administration took hold. But in a mirror image of the patchwork era, administrators were buffeted by partisan and judicial contests for authority. Intercurrence, then, ensured disorder and dysfunction in the modern American state. The story begins with nineteenth century state structure. Unlike Europe, where central state bureaucracies preceded industrialization and state building, in the U.S. democratization came first, followed by industrialization and only then by state building. The result was a state dominated by patronage parties, whose only limitation on distributing the spoils of office came from the courts. The Nineteenth Century, state of courts and parties was weak by European standards, but it was as strong as it needed to be for an agrarian society; that is, until the railroads threw the old order into crisis. Bitter conflicts between labor and management, shippers and railroads, and among the railroads themselves threatened social peace. When everyone turned to the state to redress their grievances, courts and parties proved unable to respond. In the 1880s, a new class of professional economists began to propose an independent government commission, staffed by experts, to reconcile the demands of railroad economics and distributive politics. In 1887, Congress took up their proposal, and created the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate the railroads. But the commissions enabling statute, writes Skowronek, was no more than patchwork. It subordinated professional autonomy and rational policy to the interests of congresss most powerful constituents: agrarian and small business shippers. The economists complained. They saw statute of 1887 as patronage, driven by the base impulses of political machines. Seen from the perspective of economic science, the ICCs mandate was full of contradictions, which would ultimately serve no ones interests. The economists proved prescient. Prodded by the railroads, the courts seized on the confusions in the law to disempower the ICC. And by the turn of the century, the crazy quilt of regulation proved too disorderly to hold. Seen from an intercurrent structuralist point of view, the ICC was incapable of rationalizing policy or serving partisan interests. The fortunes for state building improved after the turn of the century, when the structural conditions of party competition changed. Electoral politics in the late nineteenth century had been extremely competitive. The presidential election of 1896, however, ushered in an era of stability, in which the parties settled into sectional alignment. A dominant Republican Party controlled the north, while the Democrats controlled the south. As competition declined, space opened for progressive era presidents to take bold initiatives in state building. Thus, as the parties passed through a structural realignment, state building passed from the era of patchwork to reconstitution.


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Skowronek tells a fascinating story of presidential creativity during the progressive era. In many ways, progressive presidents acted like Deweyan deliberators, forging experiments from the materials of law and economic science and testing them against the possibilities of partisan politics. In the end, however, their reforms ran up against the structural constraints of intercurrence. Although presidents and professional state builders guided the US into the era of administrative government, their capacity to rationalize policy and assert autonomy was ultimately constrained by the structural residue of courts and parties. After more than a decade of initiatives from progressive presidents, Congress finally gave the ICC the tools to regulate railroads according to scientific principles. The Mann-Elkins Act of 1913 empowered the commission to set maximum rates, and the Railway Valuation Act of 1914 empowered it to measure the value of railroad property. Together, they provided the ICC with the capacity to set rates according to a reasonable return on investment and thereby balance the carriers need to re-invest and the shippers right to fair rates. By 1914, the ICC finally had the capacity to do what economists had proposed for a generation. The hopes of professionals and presidents were quickly dashed. Despite its newfound capacities, the ICC did not exercise administrative autonomy. Instead, it heeled closely to a congressional mandate to serve shippers. The ICC reviewed railroad requests for rate increases with the narrowest standard: did existing rates provide railroads with a fair return on the value of property when compared to other industries? In virtually all cases, the commission answered yes. But, railroads faced pressures to reinvest in intensive development, as traffic continued to grow. The ICC not only starved the industry of savings, it made it impossible to raise capital in an increasingly competitive market. Thus, the promise to reconcile railroad economics with distributive justice by augmenting administrative capacity and autonomy proved elusive. The modern state was born into a world of intercurrent institutions, where it was continually buffeted by old institutional imperatives. By the time the US entered the First World War, the railroads were in a shamble and President Wilson had little choice but to nationalize the industry for the duration of the war. In its first act, the Railway War Board granted the carriers an across-the-board rate increase, finally fulfilling the administrative promise envisioned for the ICC since 1887. When the carriers returned to civilian control in 1920, the Wilson administration joined Congress in a comprehensive effort to rationalize railroad regulation. But the Transportation Act of 1920 failed to resolve the contradictions in regulatory law or provide the ICC with a clear mandate to reconcile the industrys health with distributive claims on its income. Congress left most of the difficult and controversial questions to ICC discretion. And, even though the statute redressed the ICCs earlier bias in ratemaking powers by authorizing it to set minimum, as well as maximum, rates, Congress failed to articulate any clear rate making standards. As a result, ICC autonomy would be in constant jeopardy, as disgruntled interests continued to seek redress through the layered institutions of the old order: parties, congress, and the courts. In short, although the American state was reconstituted, it did not settle into an orderly path dependent era. Instead, hemmed in by old structures, the administrative state became a hapless giant, bloated by extensive powers, accompanied by little real authority or autonomy. The structures of modern American government, in other

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words, are well understood as intercurrent. Institutions created for different purposes at different times found themselves in incongruous disorder. The modern administrative state was born dysfunctional. Compare this story of the ICC to Berks history the Federal Trade Commission (the second federal regulatory agency in the US). Institutionalists typically tell the same sort of story about the FTC that Skowronek tells about the ICC. Caught in the stalemate between old order and new, the FTC was stillborn with the vague and incoherent mission to regulate unfair competition. Finegold and Skocpol (1995) characterize the FTC as a weak ad hocracy, which lacked autonomy, monitoring capacity, internal hierarchy, and a professional culture (see also Carpenter 2001, 711; McCraw 1984, 125-128). It is little wonder, in this view, that the commission failed to respond effectively to the persistent crises of overcapacity in the 1920s, which presaged the great depression. But, seen from the perspective of lived rules and Deweyan deliberation, instead of the structural standards institutionalists associate with modern Weberian bureaucracy, the early history of the FTC looks quite different. Berk shows how creative syncretists recomposed old institutions and new blueprints to devise an agency whose mission has been invisible to institutionalists in search of bureaucratic hierarchy and autonomy. He also shows how creative administrators found resources, where institutionalists see only constraints, to cultivate capacities for economic improvement in civil society. Berks story begins with the great merger wave at the turn of the Nineteenth Century. For some progressive era presidents and most economists, this event proved the inevitability of giant enterprise. They exploited their positions of power and cultural authority, shaping public interpretation and socializing a new generation of Americans to naturalize corporate power. Conventional institutionalists reading Dewey might call this the origin of routine, wherein the powerful split habit from deliberation. They might understand it as conjectural moment, the founding of a new corporate order. Taken-for-granted assumptions about modern industry should have blocked deliberation over the causes of corporate power and creativity in devising alternatives. This is not what happened. Agrarian and small business populists continued to question the official narrative of the trusts and the result was not, as Skowronek suggests, a structural stalemate between tradition and modernity. Instead, the election of 1912, opened the field to deliberation, when the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, enlisted Louis Brandeis to help rework his partys antitrust policy. Wilson found himself with a unique opportunity to forge a reform coalition with progressive Republicans. The Republicans were divided over antitrust policy. A conservative wing wanted the status quo; while progressives wanted an independent commission, modeled on the ICC (regulated monopoly). When the progressives bolted from their party and enlisted Theodore Roosevelt to make a third party run for the presidency, Wilson made a bid for progressive support. Although he suspected he could win the election with a plurality, he knew the Democrats fortunes would be short lived, if he did not make coalition with progressive Republicans. But Democrats and progressives were deeply divided over antitrust reform in 1912. The populist base of Wilsons party hated the idea of a regulatory commission. Instead, they wanted to strengthen antitrust law so the Department of Justice could


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reverse corporate concentration (they wanted to enforce competition), not an FTC, which would accept economic power and only try to manage it. With the factions divided, Brandeis and Wilson deliberated. As Brandeis saw it, the problem was to re-narrate the causes of American distress in a way that both populists and progressives could find a place for themselves. In his view, populist Democrats were correct: corporate power endangered the republic, and it was unlikely that a commission could redress that power. Progressives were also correct: markets were no longer self-regulating and a commission was necessary to ensure that they realized civic ends. But Brandeis thought both factions falsely reified particular institutional forms and in doing so, they reached unwarranted conclusions about the causes of big business, restricted policy imagination and diminished the possibilities for experimentation. Populist Democrats failed to see the ambiguities of competition, because they placed blind faith in self-regulating markets. Brandeis and others knew through observation, however, that competition could be predatory or productive. Hence, a blanket rule against restraints of trade would undermine the many productive restraints business had learned to place on rivalry. Enforced competition, in other words, would have perverse outcomes. Similarly, Brandeis held that the progressives mistakenly reified the large-scale corporation as inevitable and efficient. In the absence of a policy that distinguished predatory from productive competition, however, no one really knew whether economic concentration was caused by efficiency or the desire for power. The progressive economists, Brandeis charged, were incorrect to naturalize bigness as scientific law. Even though the economists were the more prestigious experts, another group of professionals acted deliberatively and completely out of view of institutionalists. Cost accountants had demonstrated how the obsession with mass production and bigness was driven more by cost conventions that overvalued volume than by the immutably high fixed costs of modern technology (as the economists theorized). In experiments with manufacturing and railroads, the cost accountants showed that when firms adopted new metrics, they found many ways to realize efficiency and profit without increasing the scale of production. Thus, in Brandeiss view, the advocates of regulated monopoly not only capitulated to unnecessary power; they cut short the search for techniques to reconcile the ends of equality and economic prosperity. Instead of reifying markets or corporations, Brandeis proposed an ongoing experiment. Create an agency with the capacity to distinguish predatory from productive competition and then use it to channel rivalry from the former to the latter. Brandeis called this option regulated competition and proposed two warrants for the FTC. The first combined deliberation and coercion. Empower the commission to work with business to identify predatory methods of competition and check them before they turned into unassailable power. The second was cultivational. Empower the commission to perturb destructive business habits though education, information, and disciplined comparison. Brandeis proposed the FTC hire cost accountants, not economists, to oversee its cultivational mission. Even though structural conditions seemed conducive for routine, regulated competition challenged progressives and populists to set aside blind faith in markets or administration for an experiment. Empower a trade commission to channel

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competition from predation into improvements in products and production processes and see what happens. Brandeis bet that the outcome would better reconcile the populist goal of equality with the progressive goal of scientific mastery than either enforced competition or regulated monopoly. Although Brandeis cracked open the terms of debate in 1912, he did not succeed in convincing populists and progressives to merge their identities into a single political bloc. Wilson won the election with a plurality, but the problem of assembling a reform coalition remained. Under Wilsons watchful eye, Congressional entrepreneurs took up the cause of reform. By 1914, Congress had created a Federal Trade Commission, which progressives and populists supported for very different reasons. The heart of the Federal Trade Commission Act empowered the FTC to regulate unfair methods of competition. To populist Democrats, this was a prophylactic power. The FTC would use it to check predatory activity before it turned into unassailable power. For progressives, it meant that once firms grew big for reasons of efficiency, the FTC would ensure they used that power responsibly. Both factions took credit for the statute, and the law (with multiple meanings) licensed multiple projects, among them regulated competition. Creative administrators at the FTC picked up Brandeiss project and carried it forward. Their work has been invisible to institutionalists, because institutionalists believe the FTC was born a structurally weak agency. Congress saddled it with multiple missions, few resources, and the unprecedented mandate to regulate the whole economy. Seen from the perspective of lived rules, or habit-in-motion, however, the story recounted below shows how creative administrators found resources for innovation, where institutionalists only see constraints. In 1915, the FTCs second chair, Edward Hurley, invited Brandeis to address the commission. To their surprise, Hurley and Brandeis found they shared an enthusiasm for cost accounting. (Hurley was a Chicago manufacturer, who learned about cost accounting when he served as president of the Illinois Manufacturer s Association). A great deal of destructive competition in manufacturing, Hurley and Brandeis agreed, was caused by the unreflective obsession with volume. This was Deweyan routine, which generated perverse consequences. But, cost accounting was a deliberative alternative, which showed there was nothing inevitable about accounting conventions that valued volume over all other ends. Hurley and Brandeis agreed that the commission ought to take up the accountants project and teach business new methods to measure costs and then pool information about what worked and what did not. By doing so, the FTC could check the tendency to corporate growth by channeling competition from cutthroat pricing into improvements in products and production processes. Hurley considered approaching Congress for a license to set uniform national cost accounting standards and the resources to carry it out. The political conditions appeared inhospitable. But, the older order in Congress did not block creativity. Hurley searched instead for resources in civil society, where he found the cost accountants, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a number of trade associations in manufacturing industries in the midst of parallel projects. Under Hurleys guidance, the FTC turned to these groups to cultivate capacities for regulated competition. Hurleys efforts bore fruit. The cost accountants founded a new professional association, devoted working with the state and trade associations. The U.S.


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Chamber of Commerce assembled accountants, state officials, and trade associations in four national meetings to cull from their experiences a model of trade associations devoted to regulated competition. And by 1928, 15% of all trade associations in 25% of manufacturing industries in the United States had adopted the features of those associations in whole or in part. Many succeeded in improving productivity, augmenting labor skills, adopting new technologies and increasing profits in their industries by redirecting competition from volume into product quality and diversity (Berk and Schneiberg 2005). Thus, by focusing on the way actors reinterpreted, recomposed and created new rules, instead of how rules constrained action, Berks history of the FTC shows how creative syncretists found resources for experimentation in putatively unlikely places. Instead of yielding to the incongruities between Nineteenth and TwentiethCentury institutions, Brandeis reached across temporal boundaries to reconfigure the trust problem. Instead of yielding to a stalemate between populists and progressives, creative syncretists in Congress crafted a statute with multiple meanings. Instead of surrendering to structural constraints on bureaucratic autonomy and capacity, creative administrators recomposed resources from civil society to cultivate capacities for regulated competition. The result was a successful institutional path, which has been invisible to institutionalists. Convergence in comparative capitalism Institutionalists have long been concerned with the question of convergence among advanced industrial democracies (Berger and Dore 1996). Many excellent studies since the 1980s have demonstrated how unique patterns of institutional development have resulted in diverse national systems of capitalism. But, globalization, poor performance in non-liberal market economies, such as Germany and Japan, and the diffusion of liberal reforms have challenged this inference and resurrected the convergence thesis. This debate has sparked a good deal of research and creative thinking among institutionalists about how nations with non-liberal market institutions are responding to the pressures for marketization or liberal reform. This section compares two works on responses to the recent spatial diffusion of neoliberal institutions in two non-liberal systems: Yamamura and Streecks (2003) edited volume on Germany and Japan, and Herrigels study of industrial relations and corporate governance in Germany. The former explains change by pushing the boundaries of structuralist institutionalism; the latter rejects structuralist formulations for a pragmatist and constructivist approach, which shares much with our concept of creative syncretism. In order to facilitate comparison, we will focus our discussion of Yamamura and Streeck on industrial relations in Germany. Taken together, these works show how a shift to creative syncretism provides a more consistent and systematic theory of institutional life. Change is no longer bracketed as an epiphenomenon of structure, or a theoretically anomalous interruption of order. The result is a more consistent and simple theory of institutional action. This requires a shift in focus, away from structural typologies, toward lived experience. Such a shift opens new empirical terrain, exposing as a new, central analytic theme how people live, experience, and perturb institutions.

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In The End of Diversity?, Yamamura and Streeck assemble a group of contributions, which compare German and Japanese responses to the challenges of the market in a variety of settings, from banking and finance to technological innovation and industrial relations. Each chapter describes the existing institutions of coordinated market capitalism and then asks how actors are responding to the market pressures for flexibility, low costs, and technological innovation and political pressures for liberal reform. The goal is to assess the resiliency of coordinated market institutions and to speculate on their future in Germany and Japan. Consider the example of German industrial relations, which is taken up by several chapters. Labor markets in Germany have been governed in much of the post-World War II period by a dual system of centralized collective bargaining and plant-level works councils. Through this period, wages and benefits have typically been set through national bargains negotiated by encompassing national unions and employers associations. Works councils schedule work, deploy technology, and process grievances at the plant level. National statute governs the activities of works councils. In practice, there is a good deal of coordination between unions and works councils, and the result has been high and equal wages. The relatively high costs of German industrial relations has pushed employers to seek market advantages through incremental improvements in product quality, product diversity, productivity, and labor skills. These institutions were successful as long as German manufacturers could charge a premium price for quality, custom products. But German industrial relations have come under stress. Competitors have challenged manufacturers on both price and quality. Germany, especially after unification, has suffered prolonged unemployment, weak economic growth, and demands for much greater flexibility in wages, benefits, and the design of work. More and more employers have defected from national bargains. Many plant level works councilsfearful of unemploymenthave capitulated to employer pressure. And both unions and employer associations have watched their membership shrink. Nonetheless, contributors to the volume demonstrate that German industrial relations institutions have proven far more resilient than this picture suggests. A chapter by Thelen and Kume (2003) shows that, far from attacking the system, most German employers continue to define their interests within its rules. Faced with the need to manage tightly coupled supply chains with just-in-time delivery, manufacturers are ever more vulnerable to disruptive labor relations. Collective bargaining and works councils deliver peace and predictability. To be sure, institutions are not static. Small and medium sized manufacturers, who are the most vulnerable to price competition, are opting out of the old system in larger numbers than large firms, who now make up the bulk of active participants in centralized bargaining and traditional works councils. Moreover, many local works councils have bowed to pressures for flexibility in labor deployment and wage dispersion. Nonetheless, there is no imminent sign of collapse of the system as a whole. In this account, there is reform toward more marketized, neoliberal models, alongside stability of more coordinated rules and practices. Two categories of institutional-structural types exist side by side for the time being. The implication is that someday, one type will supplant the other, but for now, they co-exist. Some authors call this hybridity. Yamamura and Streeck thus conclude that, like industrial relations, German financial, corporate, and regulatory institutions are becoming increasingly heteroge-


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neous and hybrid. In some instances, like the one described by Thelen and Kume, this has meant that the core of solidaristic institutions has remained stable, while a growing periphery of liberal institutions has grown up next to it. In other instances, liberal features have been grafted onto existing institutions. For example, although German corporations remain closely held and controlled, they have become much more responsive to shareholders and stock markets. At its best, the resulting hybrid introduces flexibility into slow moving organizations. At its worst, however, it has begun to challenge fundamental German values of industrial citizenship, social solidarity, and economic equality. Yamamura and Streeck are agnostic about the future. But they conclude that the recent history of Germany and Japan challenges institutional theory to make more room for loose coupling, creative entrepreneurship, rule ambiguity, and radical uncertainty. Notice how the account is rooted in categorical descriptions of structural types (liberal verses coordinated markets). These can coexist, and sometimes elements from one type can be inserted into a structure of another type. But the types remain fairly extant, and the combinations are assumed to represent ephemeral and awkward mixtures awaiting reconciliation, evolution (or regression) towards one or the other of the clear typological forms. Compare Herrigels (2008) Roles and Rules: Ambiguity, Experimentation and New Forms of Stakeholderism in Germany. Herrigel agrees that Germanys dualist system of industrial relations is under stress. But he does not see path dependency, widespread defections, or marketized hybrids. Seen from the local level (rather than from the perspective of national institutions or the scholarly debate over convergence), Germany reveals a great deal of experimentation that defies received categories. Herrigel argues that it is difficult to make sense of these experiments, or to even see them, with conventional institutionalist tools of analysis. Instead, drawing upon pragmatist and constructivist traditions, he redefines institutions as groupings of rules that represent provisional solutions to collectively defined problems. When institutions no longer work, actors break rules in a variety of ways: they can agree they do not apply to the situation at hand, or if they do, to set them aside; or they can knowingly violate rules; or because every rule has an ambiguous relationship to facts and other rules, they can re-combine and reinterpret them to license novel actions. Such normal rule breaking inevitably calls into question existing roles and identities and opens possibilities for reconfiguration. Like Dewey, Herrigel calls this process experimentation. Herrigel agrees that competitive conditions have changed for German manufacturers. Unable to take a premium for quality, they find themselves subject to the twin pressures of cost reduction and an accelerated pace of innovation. In response, most manufacturers have spun off elements of production in order to reduce costs and increase access to a wider range of expertise. But subcontracting does not have the qualities of arms-length markets. Instead, manufacturers balance their desire for diverse relationships with deep collaborations by carrying long-term contracts, but limiting the total amount of inputs they buy from any one supplier. The result is a constant recombination of resources and personnel, as manufacturers engage in multiple collaborations to devise new products and processes. This is a novel institutional form that cleverly and smoothly integrates the corporatist personalism of deeply collaborative subcontracting with the impersonal market flexibility of limited supply arrangements.

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Along these lines, consider three experiments with rules and roles: a joint venture between the city of Wolfsburg and Volkswagen, works councils as co-managers, and union consulting on restructuring in Wuppertal. The first example shows how actors creatively adapted rules to be able to engage in roles that are explicitly prevented by other rules. Volkswagen wanted to build a research and development facility in Wolfsburg to incorporate its suppliers into iterated process of design refinement and production called simultaneous engineering. But German law prohibited companies from employing suppliers in production plants, in order to keep employers from hiring short-term workers outside of collective bargaining agreements. With the support of the nations largest industrial union, IG Metall, and the local works council, VW and the city of Wolfsburg circumvented the law by forming a joint stock company, in which the city and the corporation share ownership of an independent company. That company, then, was made owner of a new production and design facility where VW and suppliers, as legal tenants, can conduct simultaneous engineering and collaborate on just-in-time production. Thus creative conflation of rules redefined the roles of manufacturer, union, subcontractor and city in the production process, and generated a new form of social cooperation. Its hard to make sense of this as a variation on the existing institutions of corporate governance or as a neoliberal turn. As roles shift and rules are subverted, distributive negotiators become collaborators in a process to upgrade production, yielding new practices and relations of stakeholderism. This is not hybrid putting together or grafting of elements. Instead, it is an experiential innovation, the on-the-spot concoction of a new form of corporatism that allows the kind of communication and flexibility not possible under prior corporatist rules. This innovation is much easier to see and make sense of if we look at rules and roles as resources, to be taken apart and combined in practical, experiential ways, in effect to be played and riffed. Herrigel also reports on experiments in the re-deployment of works councils from distributive stakeholders, responsible for scheduling, training and processing grievances, into co-management units, which participate in product design, process optimization and cost reduction. These new roles go well beyond the rights and responsibilities outlined for works councils in the Works Constitution Act. They came about as labor and management responded to the twin pressures of innovation and cost reduction. Works councils, with their presence in all departments, proved to be ideally situated to accumulate information about work flow, inventory, the efficiency of work organization, and design flaws. New roles alter identities. Works councils have begun to see themselves as guardians of new rights, namely, to ensure that in the constant process of reassigning, redesigning, and eliminating jobs, management finds ways to reduce costs without speeding up work or cutting wages. This means that workers must develop broad technical capabilities in design and optimization in order to participate in the new roles for works councils, because specialization is self-defeating. Thus, comanagement recasts the nature of stakeholderism within the firms. Works councils seek to maximize the contribution employees make to a firms capacity to innovate and reduce costs. This new role is proactive and rights creating. Like the old works council, co-management gives workers power in the organization, but power is enacted differently even though the insistence on mutual recognition is the same.


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The changing roles of works councils have been reproduced in unions. Herrigel reports that in Wuppertal, the local office of IG Metall is defining a new role as a restructuring consultant, alongside its traditional role in bargaining with local employers associations and ensuring compliance. IG Metall consultants are called into firms, often by management, to help with the process of reforming production and marketing strategies. Although there are no rules governing this activity, the union has the legitimacy to press works councils to embrace new roles, and the expertise to teach it how. Consultants push employers to focus on optimizing production and reducing costs in the whole organization, not merely by driving down labor costs. In this way, the union induces management and works councils to give up their attachments to formal and informal rules and practices that traditionally governed the firm, and to encourage both to take on new roles as stakeholders in upgrading products and production processes. In summary, Herrigel argues that institutional experimentation in German industrial relations is not well understood with botanical metaphors, like hybridization and grafting. German employers, subcontractors, unions, works councils and municipal governments do not add liberal features to existing institutions. Nor do they create a more heterogeneous order by simply defecting from solidaristic associations and the rules that governed them toward market-like relations. Instead, they act like creative syncretists, who deliberate over why existing rules and roles prevent them from responding to the twin pressures of cost reduction and innovation. In doing so, they try out experiments. Sometimes they agree to set some rules aside, reinterpret others, and combine others in novel ways. This generates both new roles and new collective identities. In Wolfsburg, a union, works council, municipal government, and VW shared a proximate goal to save jobs and increase productivity. In experimenting, they redefined their stake in industrial restructuring and their role in collaboration. Works councils have circumvented statutory rules to experiment with new roles. And, in experimenting with a new role, a powerful union has begun to reshape labor rights in Germany. If one thought that Deweyan routine emerged from the exercise of power and socialization, this account might appear to be driven by the pressures of globalization, which force workers to accept subordinate roles in a neoliberal order. Consistent with our account of routineit cannot be read as an epiphenomenon of structure, but must be assessed experientiallyemployers, works councils, unions and government face pressures to normalize towards a neoliberal model. And they do not. As Herrigel demonstrates, the appropriation of new roles by unions and works councils is not subordination. It is proactive and rights creating. In reimagining themselves as new stakeholders in economic improvement, workers also recompose the means to economic improvement (not by cutting wages) and the metrics by which it is evaluated (throughout the firm, not just in labor). All this would be invisible or easy to overlook if we expected that pressure to liberalize would produce conformity and the founding of new routines. We might easily dismiss the richness of what Herrigel describes as ephemeral hybrids of contract (liberal market) and coordination (corporatist market), or an intermediate stage toward normal neoliberalism. None of these examples would be visible or intelligible without something like the theory of creative syncretism. More structuralist ways of seeing institutions

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recognize changes in classificatory typehas diffusion or convergence displaced coordinated practices in Germany? Can we classify new practices in a third, mixed or hybrid category? Our approach, by contrast, sees institutions differently. Like Herrigel, we suggest an ontological shift with regard to institutions, seeing them in terms of lived experience, everyday practice, and the perturbations and transformations that naturally result. As a result, one focuses on new empirical terrain, one is able to track and account for tinkering and innovation by VW, the city of Wolfsburg, and IG Metall. More profoundly, our approach suggests a very different conceptualization of institutional experience and the bases for change, in which the drivers are not the interaction or evolution of structures, but the kind of everyday use of institutions in practice that we see so clearly in Herrigels examples (see also Herrigel 2005). Endogenous change in developing countries For institutionalists who study development, the central problematic has been the origin of rules, norms and practices that foster desirable forms of social change (e.g., reducing poverty, ending civil violence, mitigating social marginalization, or making authority less arbitrary6). Where do developmentally useful rules and norms come from? What makes them work (promote developmental goals)? What makes them stick (gain social adherence and legitimacy)? This section touches briefly on the conventional answer to these questions, before contrasting rational choice institutionalist and experiential accounts of endogenously generated, developmentally useful institutions. Given the importance of agriculture in many developing societies, both our examples focus on land tenure and property rights. Peter Evans (2004) calls the conventional approach to development institutional monocropping, the replacement of local rules and practices with those derived from more advanced societies (constitutions, mass parties, private property, legal orders, human rights regimes, etc.). Social change in this view depends on borrowing or transferring effective institutions from places where they already work. Demonstration effects should convince people to adhere to new rules and practices, giving up old ways as needed (in the colonial era, this was done through assimilation, conversion or education). For generations, however, transfer and tutelage have run aground on the persistence of local cultures and rules. Often, these dont fade with exposure to modernity, but continue to organize peoples lives. Indeed some institutionalists, led by Douglass North, argue that developmentally useful institutions only emerge when informal rules, norms and values support and help engender new formal institutions. This is what North argues occurred very slowly in the West, to eventually make possible market exchange and constitutional governance (North 1981, 1991). In the developing world, North and followers probe this interplay between formal and informal to track obstacles to institutionalization (Helmke and Levitsky 2006),

Desirable ends and the telos of development are of course highly contested (see Escobar 1995). Sen (1988) sketches an alternative to development teleology that is close to both local experience and our own phenomenological formulation, discussed below.


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classify intermediate forms (Haggard 2004; Dunning and Pop-Eleches 2004) or find traces of the endogenous emergence of successful institutions out of the local mix of informal practices, norms and circumstances (North 2003; Tsai 2002). Ensminger and Knight (1997) offer one of the more theoretically explicit and ethnographically rich such accounts of endogenous change.7 They describe three examples of institutional change among Orma herders of northeastern Kenya. Starting with basic rational actor assumptions, they posit three possible mechanisms of endogenous change: coordination on focal points, competitive selection among contracts, and bargaining. For purposes of comparison between this structuralist account and Galvans experiential account of land pawning in Senegal, we will focus on Ensminger and Knights exploration of changing property rights mediated mainly by bargaining, with some role for competitive selection. Through a two-stage institutional evolution, the Orma people transformed their land tenure arrangements to arrive by the 1990s at private property. Each stage involved exogenous pressure on a prior equilibrium arrangement and identifiable mechanisms by which rational actors dealt with the new situation and endogenously generated new institutions. Prior to the first perturbation in the mid-Twentieth Century, the Orma had lived as pastoralist nomads who held land in common but controlled livestock (sheep, goats, and cattle) individually, following rainfall to the best grazing areas. Things began to change in the 1950s, as demographic pressure and new job opportunities led some wealthier Orma to settle down. The growing sedentary population needed space to keep their livestock. Those who could hired herders to tend their animals. Most tried to keep their animals in the lands just around the sedentary villages. But nomadic Orma wanted access to those grazing lands, too. To resolve that conflict, the Orma resorted to a mechanism that Ensminger and Knight call bargaining, strategic conflict in which actors make or change institutions in the process of seeking distributional advantage (45). The outcome of bargaining is a function of ones bargaining power, operationalized here as resource control. Those with more resources (sedentary Orma) drive the bargaining process, while those with fewer resources (nomadic Orma) will adjust their strategies to achieve their best outcome given the anticipated commitments of others. Knowing the basic structural asymmetries of power, it is no surprise that the sedentary Orma used bargaining to establish exclusion zones around villages to keep nomadic Orma out. By the 1980s, exclusion zones stretched more than a days walk beyond settlements. Although access conflicts were at first handled informally with the help of community elders, eventually the chief (a state civil servant) and his police got involved. Thus, in response to external pressure, Orma used the bargaining mechanism to develop a new institution that represented a partial step toward privatization. In the 1990s, this arrangement faced new perturbation. In response to conflict within neighboring Somalia, ethnic Somalis living in Kenya migrated toward Orma grazing lands and sought access to them. They claimed that communal lands were a national

Although they refer to change in norms, their conceptualization of norms fits with what we consider in this paper institutions.

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resource, and they, as Kenyan citizens, should have access to any communal land in Kenya. The state had long been ambiguous on traditional, ethnically exclusionary commons land. It promoted uniform national land policy, but lacked the capacity or political will to challenge de facto ethnic commons like those of the Orma. In Ensminger and Knights account, this type of threat triggered another mechanism for institutional changecompetitive selection over contracts. They read the Somali threat as a proposed new contract they call open access, a land tenure arrangement in which anyone, regardless of group membership, can graze animals on any land. Ensminger and Knight suggest that this may have been the deeply historic form of land tenure for the Orma, before they developed a distinctive ethnic identity coterminous with their Orma-only commons tenure regime. Thus, as the Somalis moved in, sedentary Orma faced a choice between two kinds of tenure arrangements: they could either accept the Somali bid for open access, or they could petition the state to treat their exclusion zone as a privately held ranch. They did not think they could defend their exclusion zone against Somali incursion without asking the state to formally privatize their land. Although there was some internal debate and partial indication of new bargaining among the Orma, the final decision was to seek privatization and set up a ranch. And thus, in Northian fashion, the endogenous interplay between formal rules and informal practices, mediated by identifiable, rational mechanisms, birthed private property afresh in northeastern Kenya. The account is streamlined and clear, but on closer examination the proposed mechanisms dont seem to fully capture Ensminger and Knights own rich ethnography. With regard to bargaining, the nomads accede to the exclusion zone, but we dont know what the zone means to them materially, or how they come to accept the bargain. They are simply defined structurally as lacking the resources to do anything other than adapt to the demands of the powerful. Likewise, the state enforces the bargain, but as if it were a homogenous, exogenous third party with a clear stance on property. In this case, the state means the chief, a complex figure who is both civil servant and neo-traditional customary authority. His multiple interests and polyvalent roles remain unexplored. Ensminger and Knight recognize this kind of polyvalence, and in doing so, actually suggest why bargaining should not apply to their case. In an early footnote, they acknowledge that institutions may carry different meaning for the same actors, depending on their roles or on context. Institutions may be polyvalent. Ensminger and Knight note: when this is the case, an explanation in terms of bargaining is undermined (5). But they doubt that there are many social norms [institutions] with long term distributional effects so unclear as to make it impossible for actors to choose among them. This misses the point. The issue is not so much choice among institutions, but the fact that polyvalent meanings create ambiguity in the bargaining model. How can actors meaningfully be said to bargain when they do not share a common definitioneven for themselves, let alone with othersof the object of their haggling? Thus, when bargaining re-emerges at the end of the story, in the internal Orma debate over the decision to privatize, it cannot meaningfully contain the details of the situation. Some poor Orma favor the ranch because it will include a stone quarry where many of them work, apparently safeguarding their jobs there. Some rich Orma


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favor privatization in principle but oppose the ranch because they worry about where to put their cattle. Those who rely entirely on hired herders oppose privatization because it will surely mean that their agents will need to travel farther with their animals (8). Resource endowments and bargaining thus fail to capture the multiple meanings and multiple experiences that property holds for both rich and poor Orma. Similarly, in the second phase of the privatization process, Somali pressure and Orma response also overflow the mechanism of competitive selection of contracts. Somali migrants did not just propose a new contract. When they claimed that communal means national and open for all Kenyans, they creatively reappropriated decades of rhetoric of national unity and took advantage of ambiguities in state tenure policy. They reframed themselves and their claim in national terms. This is innovative play with important rhetorical/symbolic devices, an unexpected putting together of national citizenship with local grazing rights. It scared sedentary Orma into privatizing their land not because it forced them to assess two competing contracts, but because the Somalis had come up with an institutional reinterpretation loaded with new and unanticipated meaning. Thus, within Ensminger and Knights own ethnographic account, we find a mix of structural positions, identities, and discourses that remain unaccounted for and sometimes invisible in their model. The institutions and relations they describe are too polyvalent for mechanisms like bargaining and competition over contracts to explain. This leads us to wonder: what if polyvalence is not some surfeit of ethnography overflowing theory, but the norm? What would it be like to theorize institutional change in the full complexity of polyvalent meanings, relations and practices? This would require, as we have argued throughout this article, a shift to understanding institutions from within, as they are experienced in all their lived multiplicity. Consider in this regard a case of land tenure change from the other side of the African continent, in rural Senegal (Galvan 2004). There, the Serer people, who had long practiced farming and herding on managed commons, opposed colonial efforts to privatize land. They instead developed a new institution, land pawning, a revocable transfer of usufruct rights to land in exchange for a one-time, no-interest cash payment. Serer land pawning was institutional change, but not explicable through bargaining or competition. It was not privatization, nor was it reactionary preservation of a commons system. In order to understand it, we have to look closely at the discursive and institutional resources that people used to rework both private property and the pre-existing commons system. For Serer actors, individuation of land holding threatened to undermine a local ontology of ownership of land as control and maintenance of fields by a key spiritual/political figure, the head of the lineage of a village founder. This founder, and later his high-caste heirs, managed community access to land, controlled crop choice, maintained fallow practices, safeguarded nitrogen-fixing trees, and most critically, ensured good relations with ancestral spirits thought to ensure soil fertility. In local culture and practice, these lineage heads were not owners of land (since it was in no way alienable), but land custodians, who managed fields in their material and spiritual dimensions. Oral histories report that local people opposed a market in land because individual holding would break the religiously crucial link between land managers and

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ancestral spirits. People felt (and still feel) that breaking that link would undermine soil fertility and ensure poor rainfall (matters in the hands of the ancestral spirits). The colonial state, nevertheless, used its powers of coercion and its control over information and socialization to promote appropriate and civilized forms of property.8 If one were to misread Deweys account of the origins of routine in structuralist terms, this is the kind of exercise of power that should split habit from deliberation, block creativity, and generate routine. This is not what happened. Instead, Serer actors, mostly beyond the gaze of colonial and postcolonial officials, responded creatively to the pressure to marketize by hocking fields to each other. Even when the deck was stacked against them, they acted deliberatively. In the early and mid-Twentieth Century, these pawn exchanges mapped well onto an emerging pattern of dual stratification. Low caste people with little access to land were taking up cash-earning odd jobs in the new economy (as metalworkers, drivers, translators, maids, etc), and had money, but no fields. Higher caste farmers and nobles controlled more land, but had not yet worked their way as fully into the new cash economy. Pawns thus began with the high caste hocking surplus land to landpoor low caste people, who happened to have some money. Over time, the practice became more widespread. If we read institutional change in this case off structural positioning or in terms of competitive selection of contracts, we might see what Ensminger and Knight saw: movement toward privatization and a market in land. We would miss the most interesting and innovative part of the story, land pawning, because our microfoundations of change ignored the experiential reality of rules as lived, which turns our attention to the discursive and identity-forming dimensions of institutional life. Seeing institutions experientially reveals not just changing social structures (castecash dual stratification), or the choice between flexible market exchange and static hierarchical commons. It also highlights links between land tenure and cosmology, legitimacy, and identity. The move to pawning was more than a selection between contract models, because people experienced land tenure relations in the full complexity of spirituality and social ties within a community. Pawning thus creatively reworked the old ontology of custodianship into a syncretic form. Even today, if I receive a field in pawn from anyone, noble or not, I am expected to enact a modified version of old practices of deference toward historic, noble land custodians. This entails making an annual visit to the person who gave me the field, offering a token gift (kola nuts, some fruit). This person plays the role of the old noble land custodian. When he wants his field back, he repays the original pawn amount, to which I should respond straightaway with the somewhat ritualized phrase jange o qol of (take back your field). This marks the end of the pawn, and the return of the field. Pawning was thus more than a choice among contracts. It facilitated quick land for cash swaps and the expansion of cash crop production

In addition to promoting individualization of tenure, colonial officials sought to wipe out matrilineal inheritance in favor of patrilinealism (which they considered more civilized). The Serer had long been bilineal, inheriting different kinds of property and rights through each line. The effort to eliminate Serer matrilinealism accelerated after several infamous 1930s debtors refused to inherit their father s financial debts (owed to French commercial houses for tools and seeds), insisting that by matrilineal custom, debts were passed from mother s brother to maternal nephews, not from fathers to sons.


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because it involved reenactment of old rituals in new ways, thus maintaining an everyday, experiential link to historic cosmology about land. But most colonial and post-colonial officials in Senegal never saw land pawning, or if they did, dismissed it as a vestigial and inconsequential informal practice of marginal peasants, who would soon be swept up by land reform or move to the city. When the Senegalese government instituted its 1964 land reform, the new rules (the land for those who farm it; two years use equals title) made long term pawning illegal, creating a de facto free market in land. Farmers scrambled to put land in obvious use and gain title under the new rules. The noble lineage heads who had managed access, fallow, pasturing, and nitrogen-fixing trees were much weakened by the reform. Not surprisingly, fields were overused, soils became exhausted, and agricultural yields declined, spawning an ongoing rural exodus of the most able young people into overcrowded urban centers with few economic opportunities. The states land reform was itself a syncretic formulation which engendered further creativity. It was an African socialist recombination of secure, official tenure rights with urban, elite notions about rural Africa as egalitarian, harmonious, and proto-socialist. It only followed that "the land for those who farm it" should be the core principle of the 1964 land reform. But for Serer farmers, rules as lived were not egalitarian and horizontal, but hierarchically organized around noble custodians who maintained crucial links to ancestral spirits. Again, the results belie a standard misreading of Dewey and creative syncretism. If people are creative syncretists, except when certain structural circumstances block deliberation (overwhelming power or control of information, propaganda and rhetoric), then the states land reform should have eclipsed Serer practices like land pawning. But it did not. For Serer people today, two syncretic land tenure systems co-exist as experiential realities and institutional resources.9 Creativity moves in successive chains of action, with yesterdays institutional innovations harvested as todays bases for new action. Serer farmers can and do switch between these tenure regimes as it suits their needs, a form of flexibility they appreciate. They can use the official law to nationalize (claim title to) a field if theyve farmed it for 2 years. They know this risks social rupture, but sometimes its worth the trouble. They continue to pawn, but now mostly within a restricted circle of kin and trusted allies. Serer farmers may act creatively, or they may abandon the inherent creativity of action and let routine emerge. Structural circumstances do not tell us which of these outcomes is more likely. Action itself is pregnant with both possibilities. This multiplicity and flexibility of contemporary Serer tenure arrangements creates uncertainty about which set of rules apply now and in the future. Experiential creativity helps us account for change, but it in no way guarantees functionality. Galvans account, centered as it is on experiential micro-foundations, makes no assumptions about what will work or stick. He assumes instead that people are pragmatic actors, like Serer farmers or Somali migrants above, who constantly experiment with available institutions, decomposing and recombining them to tackle

9 As Berrys seminal work (1993) notes, this is no surprise: for much of rural Africa, competing tenure systems and contradictory types of claims are more the norm than the exception.

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everyday problems. While the direction, telos and institutional forms of desirable development are clear in monocropping and strongly implicit in the rational choice institutionalist approach, they remain ambiguous when seen experientially, a function of the creativity of local actors who recompose institutional resources in developing societies.

Conclusion The way we have understood institutions cannot account for their change. Institutionalists have come to understand this, and have been developing new concepts to make better sense of institutional transformation. Intercurrence, layering, grafting, hybridity, bargaining, and competitive selection suggest that institutions disorder as much as they order social, political and economic life, and that change is as fundamental to institutional life as regularity. Agency is creeping back into the study of institutions. As institutionalists recast institutions in less deterministic roles, we notice more fully those who build and live within institutions, and what they do to alter them. So far, this is being done within fundamentally structuralist perspectives. Institutionalists find the possibilities for mutability in a closer reading of institutional structure, or deeper structures of cognition, or the structures that pattern rational action. Failure to order behavior creates its antithesis, that is, structurally determined patterns of disorder and irregularity. Change is derivate of structure. Recognizable forms of agency take a shape that fits the geometry of the gaps in institutional structure. Other forms of agency and possibilities for change go unnoticed and untheorized. In this article, we acknowledge these efforts, but insist that advancing them depends on taking agency more seriously and seeking to explain how it works. To do this, we have asked: what would happen if we set aside structuralist commitments about institutions? What if we reconceptualized institutions as not prior to, exogenous from, or determinative of action, but as the raw materials for action? This requires rethinking institutions experientially, and as Dewey does, conceptualizing rules as skills. In Deweys account of habit, we found a way to conceptualize rules-in-motion and institutions as living, breathing entities. We showed how institutional transformation and creative recombination are actually the norm; reproduction of routine and regularity are possible, but exceptional. Seeing institutional life this way reveals much that had remained invisible or ignored in institutional analysis. Even when they theorize ambiguity and agency, structuralist accounts enable us to see intercurrence and layering, but miss how creative actors reached across the boundaries of time to decompose old institutions and recombine them with aspects of new proposals to develop a third way to design a modern state. Instead of an incongruous layering of old and new institutions, which resulted in a dysfunctional state, creative actors designed an effective, cultivational Federal Trade Commission. Conventional accounts recognize grafting and hybridity across different types of national capitalism, but fail to see how works councils, managers and state actors in Germany neither capitulate to the market nor defend corporatist arrangements.


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Instead they invented new roles and forms of stakeholderism, in which workers take proactive stances on restructuring to ensure that productivity and innovation do not come at the expense of wages, labor dignity, or citizenship in the workplace. Likewise, mainstream institutionalists focus on recognizable forms of property that result from familiar mechanisms of change, like strategic bargaining and competitive selection. But outcomes that resemble neither modern privatization nor traditional commons are ignored or dismissed. Among Somalis in Kenya and the Serer in Senegal, processes of change that reflect the multiple, polyvalent meanings of institutions remain blurry, at best. As our field guide demonstrates, shifting to an experiential account of institutions allows us to systematically theorize behavior and practices sometimes bracketed as undifferentiated drivers of change, or more often dismissed as static. Thus, when compared to structuralist approaches, creative syncretism is an engine of indeterminacy and possibility in institutional life. It draws our attention to innovation, and meaningfully accounts for the unexpected, for new paths and the rediscovery of old ones, and for the sense of dj vu that one has been on this trail before, though the trail is really never twice the same. Yet creative syncretism is not a chaos machine, it is not a descent into relativism, one damn thing after another, or turtles all the way down. We recognize that while perturbation is regular, regularity exists. It exists not because structure makes it so, but as an exceptional consequence of the nature of action itself. We produce order and routine when we cut off our inherent tendency to tinker, to take apart, or to rework, which is the essence of Deweys concept of habit. Brandeis and Hurley, German workers, and Senegalese peasants all faced powerful actors armed with command over information and socialization. They were in structural contexts that should have forced the naturalization of fixed cost accounting, a decline in collaborative roles for workers, and the complete individualization of land tenure. Misreading Dewey and creative syncretism, new routine should follow from these structural circumstances. But this is not what happened; even in these conditions, actors tinkered and modified, doing the everyday work of creative syncretism. Creative syncretism is an invitation to unshackle theories of institutional change from the constraints of structuralism and the related confines of agency as an overdetermined or residual category. This is a leap, of course, but not into darkness. Pragmatists and constructivists have been theorizing in this way for over a century. If we follow their lead and ground our understanding of institutional change in the way people experience institutions, we equip ourselves with the tools to make three contributions to the study of institutions. First, we transcend rigid, ontological debates about the nature of agency. Yes, it is rational, without being mere calculation, and yes, it is concerned with social meaning, without mindless devotion to a cultural script. Creative action subsumes rationality, because practical problem solving through decomposition and recombination is intentional. Creative action subsumes culture, because it operates through shared story lines, rewriting them along the way and transforming culture. Second, understood syncretically, institutions become more, not less important, to the analysis of political and social life. No longer order-making machines, they become the medium of creative action and thus sites for political contestation. We

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were always right to focus on institutions, but allowed structuralism to constrain our view of what they make possible. Third, this suggests new terrain for a reinvigorated understanding of agency within and on institutions. Who recrafts institutions in what ways, under what circumstances, with what results? A full grasp of the implications of creative syncretismwell beyond this effort to rethink institutional changewould organize these and related questions. It would be largely interpretive, in its concern for situated sense making of creative actors, but could also ground a positivist project of inductive classification of patterns and results of creative transformation. The crucial first step is to recast institutions in looser terms and recognize the ubiquity of change, grounding the entire project in the experiential nature of rules as lived and in a robust account of the creativity of human action.
Acknowledgments The authors wish to acknowledge three thoughtful and very helpful anonymous reviews from Theory and Society; the always helpful input from our colleagues and students in the Political Science Department at the University of Oregon; Richard Bensel and Gary Herrigel, who commented on earlier versions of this article; and the tireless patience of Karen, Kirsten, Jacob, Ben, Sam, and Jeep.

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Gerald Berk is Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon. He studies historical alternatives to corporate capitalism and redistributive regulation in the United States. Berk is the recipient of fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Hagley Museum and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His book on railroads, Alternative Tracks: The Constitution of American Industrial Order, 18701916 (Johns Hopkins, 1994) received the APSAs J. David Greenstone Prize for the best book in history and politics in 1995. His book, Louis Brandeis and the Making of Regulated Competition, 19001932 was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. Dennis Galvan is Associate Professor Political Science and International Studies, and Head of the International Studies Department at the University of Oregon. He has published widely on development and institutional change in sub-Saharan Africa. His books include The State Must be Our Master of Fire: How Peasants Crafty Culturally Sustainable Development in Senegal (California, 2004, winner of the 2005 Best Book Award from the African Politics Conference Group), and Reworking Institutions Across Time and Space: Syncretic Responses to Challenges of Political and Economic Development (Palgrave, 2007, co-edited with Rudra Sil). He is currently writing a book manuscript entitled Everyday Nation Building, which explores the ongoing reworking of political community and cultural identity in Senegal and Central Java, Indonesia.