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Advanced Introduction to Theories in the Social Sciences II: Theories of Institutional Change and Stability

Periodo di svolgimento

Novembre 2020
Ore del corso: 20
Ore dei docenti responsabili: 20

Modalità d'esame

  • Prova scritta
  • Prova orale


Compulsory for the 1st year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Compulsory for the 1st year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"


Questions of policy and institutional change have long occupied economists, political scientists and sociologists. The purpose of this course is to examine several explanations of change in the social sciences with particular attention to the mechanisms through which institutions evolve over time. Classes are loosely organized around the three main strands of institutional analysis, namely rational choice institutionalism, sociological institutionalism, and historical institutionalism. In addition, we will use scholarship on contemporary puzzles to examine how and the extent to which these alternative theories have been combined to provide thorough accounts of political behavior and of policy and institutional change.  
Course format
The course is articulated into seven seminars. For each of the meeting, students are required to adopt a pro-active stance based on the readings taht will be circulated in advance. In particular, students are invited to discuss and reflect on the core theoretical assumptions that underpin distinct theories of (and approaches to) institutional change as well as on the relative strengths and weaknesses of each theories with respect to their empirical applications. Further details on class format and expectations will be provided during the first meeting.


Final grades will reflect participation and performance in seminar discussions as well as written work.

 (1) Class participation (60%): Participation grade will take into account the quality of contribution to discussions as well as the intensity and engagement in collective reflections.

(2) Presentation (20%): Final grade will take into account the quality of the discussion of the assigned readings, in terms of clarity and critical engagement 

(3) Essay (20%): Each student will be required to write a short memo (maximum 5 pages) that attempts ‘positioning’ the PhD thesis project in the relevant literatures. Further details will be provided at the beginning of the course. 

Obiettivi formativi

At the end of the course, students are expected to be able to identify the assumptions and expectations that characterize distinct theoretical strands in political science research. One major objective of the course is to help students in the organization of their theses' literature review, by reflecting on the modalities through which literature reviews can be organized and with what purposes for the empirical analysis.