This Working Group will push forward an ambitious research agenda to apply complexity theory to the new concept of instrumental incoherence in order to develop it theoretically and then apply it to a diverse set of empirical phenomena across four continents over the past 250 years. Our immediate goal is to prepare articles for a special issue of World Development, the leading journal of interdisciplinary development studies. The larger goal is to establish instrumental incoherence as an important paradigm for the analysis of successful, stalled, and failed development across both emerging markets and advanced societies.
Why is there so much institutional reform in the world? This is a deep conundrum that is little acknowledged and less understood. Why are senior politicians in all the world’s regions, across developing and developed countries, and in both democratic and autocratic regimes, so eager to change their institutions? A few recent examples include transitions from constitutional monarchy to republics in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Jamaica; reforms to judicial independence in Israel, Poland and the UK; new constitutions in Bolivia and Chile; Sri Lanka’s transition from a presidential to a parliamentary system; the creation of new states in India and new districts in Uganda; and sweeping changes to macroeconomic management and market regulation in Uzbekistan. This working group seeks to understand the prevalence and nature of institutional reform by analyzing the deep incoherence that defines many attempts. Participants are a carefully chosen blend of influential senior figures alongside rising research stars. Contributors are highly diverse in terms of their intellectual and personal backgrounds. Of 23 authors, eight are women and eight are originally from the Global South. External visitors are mostly social scientists, trained in political science, public policy, economics, area studies, and development studies, complemented by SFI faculty with expertise in complex systems and diversity, psychobiology, and social and decision sciences.