The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 71–86 | Cite as

Capturing Critical Institutionalism: A Synthesis of Key Themes and Debates

  • Kurt HallEmail author
  • Frances Cleaver
  • Tom Franks
  • Faustin Maganga
Original Article


The article aims to provide a synthesis of key discussions within scholarship that is critical of Mainstream Institutionalism. It adopts a thematic approach to chart debate and areas of convergence about key issues. The first section of the article briefly charts the rise to prominence of the mainstream ‘collective action’ school. Each of the themes identified as central to the alternative critical approach is then examined in turn. These are the ‘homogenous community’ critique, the avoidance of politics critique (further divided into ideational politics and politics of local empowerment) and the sociological critique. The article concludes by reflecting on the challenge of ‘making complexity legible’ that faces the nascent critical tradition in institutional analysis.


critical institutionalism mainstream institutionalism natural resources management water governance conservation community-based organisations 


Cet article fournit une synthèse des principales analyses scientifiques critiques à l’égard de l’institutionnalisme traditionnel. Il s’appuie sur une approche thématique pour retracer le débat et les points de convergence sur des questions-clés. La première partie de l’article récapitule brièvement la montée en puissance de la théorie traditionnelle de « l’action collective ». Ensuite, les thèmes identifiés comme étant au cœur de l’approche alternative sont examinés tour à tour. Il s’agit, tout d’abord, de la critique du postulat d’« homogénéité de la communauté », puis de la critique de l’évitement du politique (lui-même divisé en politique idéationnelle et en politique d’autonomisation locale) et, enfin, de la critique sociologique. Nous concluons par une réflexion sur le défi de « rendre lisible la complexité », auquel est confrontée la nouvelle tradition critique de l’analyse institutionnelle.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kurt Hall
    • 1
    Email author
  • Frances Cleaver
    • 2
  • Tom Franks
    • 3
  • Faustin Maganga
    • 4
  1. 1.University of BradfordGooleUK
  2. 2.King’s College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.University of BradfordBradfordUK
  4. 4.University of Dar es SalaamDar es SalaamTanzania

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