The Oxford Handbook of Political Science is central to the identity of the discipline of political science. When political science emerged as a separate Weld, it emphasized the study of formal-legal arrangements as its exclusive subject matter (Eckstein 1963, 10–11). For a time, institutions ‘‘receded from the position they held in the earlier theories of political scientists’’ (March and Olsen 1984, 734). Recent decades have seen a neoinstitutionalist revival in political science—a return to the roots of political study. This Handbook begins in that most appropriate of places, an institutionalist call to arms by March and Olsen themselves.
The Oxford Handbook of Political Science
While the older study of institutions is often caricatured today as having been largely descriptive and atheoretical, more nuanced accounts of the origins of the professionalized study of politics recall the profession’s early focus on political institutions as prescriptive based on comparative, historical, and philosophical considerations (see especially Chapter 6). The older studies of institutions were rooted in law and legal institutions, focusing not only on how ‘‘the rules’’ chan- neled behavior, but also on how and why the rules came into being in the Wrst place, and, above all, whether or not the rules worked on behalf of the common good.