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date: 10 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This Epilogue argues that progress in comparative institutional analysis will require a return from a static to a dynamic perspective. It addresses the challenge of placing individual institutions and their comparative analysis into a broader systemic context by locating them in a structured historical process. It asks whether our theories and methods have the capacity to detect regularities in the continuous transformation of social institutions, or whether our justified suspicion of teleological accounts of history as unidirectional ‘development’, with the various implications that have been attached to them in the past, requires us to overlook the forest, if there be one, and recognize only single trees. The Epilogue then revisits the old issue of historical direction and ‘progress’ that dominated nineteenth-century social science and continued to be present until the 1960s, when it was finally abandoned. Third and finally, a suggestion is made that capturing the inevitably dynamic nature of social institutions—and of social order in general—will make it necessary to move beyond the universal and timeless concepts that much of social science still believes are required for scientific respectability to an analytical framework that is adapted to the historical specificities of concrete social formations.

Keywords: dynamic perspective, historical process, development, historical direction, social institutions, analytical framework, social formations

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