Formal Rules in Institutional Transitions: An Examination Based on the Meiji Restoration and Xinhai Revolution
39 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 6, 2014
This article focuses on the roles of formal rules (laws) in institutional emergence, sustenance, crisis, and transition based on an examination of the Meiji Restoration and the Xinhai Revolution. It describes how formal rules in the polities of Qing China and Tokugawa Japan were enforced, supplemented, or modified by the strategic interactions among the ruler, the intermediate organisations, and the peasantry. It then discusses how the strategic complementarities between the ruler and the intermediate organizations were transformed into strategic rivalries in response to changes in the economic and foreign environments, resulting in the demise of dynastic rule in each country. The post-transition constitutional design was affected by the ways in which the strategic reconfigurations led to the demise of the dynastic rulers. This historical narrative suggests that formal rules per se do not necessarily create institutions in the sense of an integral pattern and process of social behavior and ideas. A formal rule can function as a substantive form of an institutional process if, and only if, it mediates between a recursive state of strategic interactions among agents and individual belief formation in order to sustain the social order.
Keywords: formal rule, endogenous institutional change, institutional complementarity, Meiji Restoration, Xinhai Revolution
JEL Classification: B52, K00, N10, N15, N45, P16, P51
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