Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

Institutions, Decisions and Collective Behaviour

Research in Leiden University’s Institute of Political Science focuses on the dynamics and the interaction of political institutions, individual decision-making, and collective behaviour.

Tom Louwerse

Political institutions

The study of political institutions addresses the social, legal and bureaucratic constructions that shape the expectations of political actors, define authoritative decision-making procedures and the boundaries of appropriate political behavior, set policy priorities, and allocate resources. These include informal norms and practices; formal rules, legislation and agreements; and organisations with staffs, budgets and explicit mandates, whether at local, national, regional or international levels.

Individual decisions

The study of decision-making in politics examines how individuals define their interests, determine their preferences and choose courses of action. Such decisions are made in formal settings, such as citizens deciding how to vote or leaders deciding on policies, and in informal social settings, such as people deciding to join a protest or social movement. These decisions may be shaped by deliberate cost-benefit calculations, information, normative values, identities and social expectations, or unconscious psychological tendencies.

Collective behaviour

The study of collective behavior addresses the group dynamics and intersubjective factors that shape political life. This includes trends in public opinion and electoral outcomes, the emergence and evolution of mass movements, the dynamics of cooperation among sovereign states, and the diffusion of political practices and institutional forms across jurisdictions and even national borders, among other phenomena.

Interactions of institutions, individual decisions, and collective behaviour

Some of the most interesting and important aspects of political life are shaped by the interaction of institutions, individual decisions, and collective behavior. Formal and informal institutions influence both individual decisions and collective behavior. Individual decisions influence the nature and functioning of institutions as well as the dynamics of collective behavior. And finally, collective behavior shapes individual decisions and political institutions. This is equally true at local, national, regional and international levels.

Thematic research clusters

Within the conceptual framework outlined above, the institute has organized seven ‘research clusters’ to coordinate, support and profile the research activity of its members:

Related research

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