Journal of Institutional Economics
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Institutions, rules, and equilibria: a unied theory
FRANK HINDRIKS and FRANCESCO GUALA
Journal of Institutional Economics / Volume 11 / Issue 03 / September 2015, pp 459 – 480
DOI: 10.1017/S1744137414000496, Published online: 16 October 2014
Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S1744137414000496
How to cite this article:
FRANK HINDRIKS and FRANCESCO GUALA (2015). Institutions, rules, and equilibria: a unied
theory. Journal of Institutional Economics, 11, pp 459-480 doi:10.1017/S1744137414000496
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Journal of Institutional Economics (2015), 11: 3, 459–480
Millennium Economics Ltd 2014 doi:10.1017/S1744137414000496
First published online 16 October 2014
Institutions, rules, and equilibria: a
FRANK HINDRIKS ∗∗
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods, Universit`a degli Studi di Milano, Italy
Abstract. We propose a new framework to unify three conceptions of institutions
that play a prominent role in the philosophical and scientific literature: the
equilibria account, the regulative rules account, and the constitutive rules account.
We argue that equilibrium-based and rule-based accounts are individually
inadequate, but that jointly they provide a satisfactory conception of institutions
as rules-in-equilibrium. In the second part of the paper we show that constitutive
rules can be derived from regulative rules via the introduction of theoretical terms.
We argue that the constitutive rules theory is reducible to the rules-in equilibrium
theory, and that it accounts for the way in which we assign names to social
Institutions are ubiquitous. Even a simple description of who we are (two
academics) or what we do would be very difficult if we could not use institutional
terms such as ‘professor’, ‘university’, ‘tenure’, or ‘scientific journal’. Since our
behaviour is constantly influenced by institutional entities and institutional roles,
institutions have always been a central topic of research in the social sciences.
But institutions are also philosophically interesting, for a variety of reasons.
Institutions are peculiar products of human activities, to begin with, and may
hold the key to understand our special place in the natural world. Why are
humans the only animals who can build diverse social organizations and who
constantly invent new ways of living together? The other social animals do
not seem to have institutions – but then what are we referring to when we
talk about institutions? Are they particular patterns of behaviours? Or perhaps
∗Parts of this paper have been presented at the University of Helsinki, Erasmus University Rotterdam,
Lund University, the University of Turin, the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and at a conference of
the Italian Society for Logic and Philosophy of Science. We have benefited from the remarks of many
participants, but we are particularly grateful to Mikael Cozic, Conrad Heilmann, Geoffrey Hodgson and
two anonymous referees of this journal.
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