2023 (20), №3

Lock-in vs. Institutional Blockage: Lost in Translation

For citation: 

Vernikov, A.V., & Kurysheva, A.A. (2023). Lock-in vs. Institutional Blockage: Lost in Translation. AlterEconomics, 20(3), 485–504. https://doi.org/10.31063/AlterEconomics/2023.20-3.1

Abstract:

In this article, we explore a well-known concept that explains how institutions can become deeply ingrained in a community, so that it becomes difficult to remove, even if most people consider them ineffective. This phenomenon can occur when institutions emerge by chance or are intentionally implemented. In English, this phenomenon is referred to as “lock-in”, but in Russian it has been inaccurately translated as blokirovka (literally “blockage”). This Russian word, however, conveys the opposite meaning, referring to the rejection or delibe­ra­te exclusion of a foreign or extrinsic institution from its native context. Our analysis of relevant sources uncovers the evolution of the “lock-in narrative” within institutionalist discourse and its transformation into the concept of “the effect of blockage” in Russian-language literature. To address this translation inaccuracy, which originated in 1997, we propose to reserve the term “blocking” exclusively for instances involving the rejection of a new institution. “Lock-in” is better understood as indicating irreversibility, a strong commitment to, or unwavering adherence to a specific social practice. We explain why it should not be confused with another widely recognized phenomenon in institutional evolution known as “path dependence”. Furthermore, we examine the frequently used Russian-language metaphor “institutional trap”, which is often interchanged with “lock-in”. We highlight that Original Institutional Economics had previously explored these unique cases of institutional evolution long before they were reintroduced into economic theory as part of the lock-in and path dependence narratives. Our paper contributes to the rectification of names (zhèngmíng) aimed at getting rid of redundant substances in academic discourse.

PDF full
Downloaded: 85

Andrei V. Vernikov — Dr. Sci. (Econ.), Leading Research Associate, Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences; https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1561-9458 (32, Nakhimovsky Ave., Moscow, 117218, Russian Federation; e-mail: vernikov@inecon.ru).

Anna A. Kurysheva — Cand. Sci. (Econ.), Senior Research Associate, Southern Federal University; https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8334-4594 (105/42, Bolshaya Sadovaya St., Rostov-on-Don, 344006, Russian Federation; e-mail: suaveanna7@gmail.com).

Ansell, B. (2008). University Challenges: Explaining Institutional Change in Higher Education. World Politics, 60 (2), 189–230. https://doi.org/10.1353/wp.0.0009

Arthur, W. B. (1983). On Competing Technologies and Historical Small Events: The Dynamics of Choice under Increasing Returns. Technological Innovation Program Workshop Paper, Department of Economics, Stanford University, November.

Arthur, W. B. (1988). Self-Reinforcing Mechanisms in Economics. In Anderson, Ph., Arrow, K., Pines, D. (Eds.), The Economy as an Evolving Complex System (pp. 9–32). Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley.

Arthur, W. B., Ermoliev, Yu. M., & Kaniovski, Yu. M. (1987). Path-Dependent Processes and the Emergence of Macro-Structure. European Journal of Operational Research, 30 (3), 294–303. https://doi.org/10.1016/0377-2217(87)90074-9

Auzan, A. (2007). Koleya rossiyskoi modernizatsii [“The track” of Russian modernization]. Obshchestvennye nauki i sovremennost [Social Sciences and Contemporary World], 6, 54–60. (In Russ.)

Auzan, A., Lepetikov, Ya., & Sitkevich, D. (2022). Koleya i mayatnik: vliyaniye lovushki predshestvuyushchego razvitiya na dinamiku institutsionalnykh izmeneniy [Track and Pendulum: Impact of the Past Dependence Problem on the Dynamics of Institutional Change]. Voprosy teoreticheskoy ekonomiki [Issues of Economic Theory], 1, 24–47. https://doi.org/10.52342/2587-7666VTE_2022_1_24_47

Balatsky, E. (2020). “Institutsionalnaya lovushka”: nauchnyy termin i krasivaya metafora [“Institutional Trap”: Both a Productive Concept and a Fine Metaphor]. Journal of Institutional Studies, 12 (3), 24–41. http://dx.doi.org/10.17835/2076-6297.2020.12.3.024-041 (In Russ.)

Balatsky, E. V. (2002). Funktsional’nye svoystva institutsional’nykh lovushek [Functional Features of Institutional Traps]. Ekonomika i matematicheskie metody [Economics and Mathematical Methods], 38 (3), 54–72. (In Russ.)

Beckert, J. (1999). Agency, Entrepreneurs, and Institutional Change. The Role of Strategic Choice and Institutionalized Practices in Organizations. Organization Studies, 20 (5), 777–799. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840699205004

Brizhak, O. V. (2021). Institutsionalnyye lovushki razvitiya kreativnogo potentsiala korporatsii [Institutional traps for the development of a corporation’s creative potential]. Ekonomicheskaya nauka sovremennoy Rossii [Economics of Contemporary Russia], 3, 87–96. https://doi.org/10.33293/1609-1442-2021-3(94)-87-96 (In Russ.)

Capoccia, G. (2016). When Do Institutions “Bite”? Historical Institutionalism and the Politics of Institutional Change. Comparative Political Studies, 49 (8), 1095–1127.

Commons, J. R. (1959). Institutional Economics. Its Place in Political Economy. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 457.

David, P. (1985). Clio and the Economics of QWERTY. The American Economic Review, 75 (2), 332–337.

David, P. A. (1994). Why are Institutions the “Carriers of History”?: Path Dependence and the Evolution of Conventions, Organizations and Institutions. Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, 5 (2), 205–220. https://doi.org/10.1016/0954-349X(94)90002-7

Dyakov, A. I. (2012). Graficheskaya assimilyatsiya anglitsizmov v russkom yazyke [Graphic Assimilation of Anglicisms in Russian]. Teoriya yazyka i mezhkul’turnaya kommunikatsiya [Theory of Language and Intercultural Communication], 2, 12–21. (In Russ.)

Farrell, H., & Héritier, A. (2007). Conclusion: Evaluating the Forces of Interstitial Institutional Change. West European Politics, 30 (2), 405–415. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402380701239962

Fernandez, R., & Rodrik, D. (1991). Resistance to Reform: Status Quo Bias in the Presence of Individual-Specific Uncertainty. The American Economic Review, 81 (5), 1146–1155.

Frolov, D. P. (2013). Metaforizm institutsionalizma: fizikalizm vs biologizm [Metaphorism of Institutionalism: Physicalism vs Biologism]. Terra Economicus, 11 (3), 34–51. http://dx.doi.org/10.24412/2410-4531-2013-3-34-51 (In Russ.)

Goosen, E. V., & Popova, E. Yu. (2015). Teoriya institutsionalnoy modernizatsii: istoki i perspektivy [Theory of Institutional Modernization: Origins and Prospects]. Sovremennye Problemy Nauki i Obrazovaniya [Modern Problems of Science and Education], 1–1, 756–756. (In Russ.)

Gruchy, A. (1947). Modern Economic Thought. The American Contribution. N.Y.: Prentice-Hall, Inc, 670.

Hacker, J. S., Pierson, P., Thelen, K. A. (2015). Drift and Conversion: Hidden Faces of Institutional Change. In J. Mahoney, K. Thelen (Eds.), Advances in Comparative-Historical Analysis (pp.180–208). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hodgson, G. M. (2004). Reclaiming Habit for Institutional Economics. Journal of Economic Psycho­logy, 25 (5), 651–660. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2003.03.001

Hodgson, G. M. (2019). Taxonomic Definitions in Social Science, with Firms, Markets and Institutions as Case Studies. Journal of Institutional Economics, 15 (2), 207–233. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1744137418000334

Inshakov, O. V. (2007). Instituty i institutsii v sovremennoy ekonomicheskoy teorii [Institutes and Institutions in Modern Economic Theory]. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 3: Ekonomika. Ekologiya [Journal of Volgograd State University. Economics], 11, 6–21. (In Russ.)

Inshakov, O. V., & Frolov, D. P. (2010). Lingvistika institutsionalnoy ekonomiki [Linguistics of Institutional Economics]. Volgograd, Russia: Volgograd State University Publishing House, 279. (In Russ.)

Kirdina, S. G. (2001). Institutsionalnyye matritsy i razvitiye Rossii [Institutional Matrices and Development in Russia]. Novosibirsk, Russia: Institute of Economics and Industrial Engineering SB RAS. https://elibrary.ru/rbveor (Date of access: 16.04.2023) (In Russ.)

Kurbatova, M. V., Levin, S. N., & Sablin, K. S. (2021). Import instrumentov nauchnoy politiki
v sovremennoy Rossii [Import of Scientific Policy Instruments in Contemporary Russia]. Journal of Institutional Studies, 13 (3), 37–52. http://dx.doi.org/10.17835/2076-6297.2021.13.3.037-052 (In Russ.)

Kuzminov, Y., Radaev, V., Yakovlev, A., & Yasin, E. (2005). Instituty: ot zaimstvovaniya k vyrashchivaniyu (opyt rossiyskikh reform i vozmozhnosti kultivirovaniya institutsionalnykh izmeneniy) [Institutions: From Import to Raising (Lessons from the Russian Reforms and Opportunities for Cultivation of Institutional Change)]. Voprosy Ekonomiki, 5, 5–27. https://doi.org/10.32609/0042-8736-2005-5-5-27 (In Russ.)

Libman, A. M. (2004). Gosudarstvo i biznes na postsovetskom prostranstve: neeffektivnoye ravnovesiye i “institutsionalnyye lovushki” [The State and Business in the Post-Soviet Space: Inefficient Equilibrium and “Institutional Traps”]. Rossiya i sovremennyy mir [Russia and the Contemporary World], 4, 90–105. (In Russ.)

Maiminas, E. Z. (2016). Sotsialno-ekonomicheskiy genotip obshchestva (1989) [Socioeconomic Genotype of a Society (1989)]. Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta. Seria 6, Ekonomika [Moscow University Economics Bulletin], 4, 186–204. https://doi.org/10.38050/013001052016415 (In Russ.)

Makarenko, V. P. (2019). Poslesloviye nauchnogo redaktora [Afterword by the scientific editor]. Nauchnyye transaktsii: seti i iyerarkhii v obshchestvennykh naukakh [Scientific Transactions: Networks and Hierarchies in Social Sciences] (pp. 260–271). Moscow, Russia: INFRA-M. (In Russ.)

Makarin, A. V. (2016). Politicheskaya konkurentsiya vs politicheskaya stabilnost v sovremennoy
Rossii [Political Competition and Political Stability in Contemporary Russia]. Vestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo Universiteta. Seriya 6. Politologiya. Mezhdunarodnye Otnosheniya [Vestnik of Saint Petersburg State University. Political science. International Relations], 1, 28–39. (In Russ.)

McCloskey, D. (1983). The Rhetoric of Economics. Journal of Economic Literature, 21 (2), 481–517.

Nechaev, D. N., & Liubkina, O. R. (2021). Institutsionalnyye izmeneniya v gosudarstvennoy politike reindustrializatsii i novoy industrializatsii regionov Rossii: faktor promyshlennykh parkov (na primere oblastey TSFO) [Institutional Changes in State Policy of Re-Industrialization and Industrialization of Regions in Russia: The Factor of Industrial Parks (illustrated by regions of the Central Federal district)]. Vestnik Rossiyskogo ekonomicheskogo universiteta im. G. V. Plekhanova [Vestnik of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics], 18 (6), 93–104. https://doi.org/10.21686/2413-2829-2021-6-93-104 (In Russ.)

Nesterenko, A. N. (1997). Sovremennoye sostoyaniye i osnovnyye problemy institutsionalno-evolyutsionnoi teorii [The Current State and Main Problems of Institutional and Evolutionary Theory]. Voprosy Ekonomiki, 3, 42–57. (In Russ.)

North, D. (1997). Instituty, institutsionalnyye izmeneniya i funktsionirovanie ekonomiki [Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance]. Moscow, Russia: Nachala Publ., 180. (In Russ.)

North, D. (2005). Understanding the Process of Economic Change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 200.

North, D. C. (1990). Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511808678

Nureev, R. M., & Latov, Y. V. (2006). Chto takoye zavisimost ot predshestvuyushchego razvitiya i kak yeyo izuchayut rossiyskiye ekonomisty [What is path dependence and how it is analyzed by Russian scholars]. In Kuzminov et al. (Eds.), Istoki: iz opyta izucheniya ekonomiki kak struktury i protsessa [Origins: From the Experience of Studying the Economy as a Structure and Process] (pp. 228–256). Moscow, Russia: HSE Publishing House. (In Russ.)

Oleynik, A. N. (2019). Nauchnyye transaktsi: Seti i iyerarkhii v obshchestvennykh naukakh [Scientific Transaction: Networks and Hierarchies in Social Sciences]. Moscow: INFRA-M, 300. (In Russ.)

Peirce, Ch. (1934). How to Make our Ideas Clear. Collected Papers, vol. V. Pragmatism and Pragmaticism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, bk. II, ch. 5.

Polishchuk, L. (2008). Netselevoe ispolzovanie institutov: prichiny i sledstviya [Misuse of
Institutions: Its Causes and Consequences]. Voprosy Ekonomiki, 8, 28–44. https://doi.org/10.32609/0042-8736-2008-8-28-44 (In Russ.)

Polterovich, V. (2006). Predisloviye redaktora [The editor’s foreword]. Institutsionalnyye lovushki Polterovicha i transaktsionnyye izderzhki [Polterovich’s Institutional Traps and Transaction Costs] (pp. 3–9). Ekaterinburg, Russia: Institute of Economics of the Ural Branch of RAS. (In Russ.)

Polterovich, V. M. (1999). Institutsionalnyye lovushki i ekonomicheskiye reformy [Institutional Traps and Economic Reforms]. Ekonomika i matematicheskie metody Economics and Mathematical Methods, 35 (2), 3–20. (In Russ.)

Polterovich, V. M. (2001). Transplantaciya ekonomicheskikh institutov [Transplantation of Economic Institutions]. Ekonomicheskaya nauka sovremennoy Rossii [Economics of Contemporary Russia], 3, 24–50. (In Russ.)

Polterovich, V. M. (2007). Elementy teorii reform [Elements of the Theory of Reform]. Moscow, Russia: Ekonomika Publ., 446. (In Russ.)

Rodrik, D. (1996). Understanding Economic Policy Reform. Journal of Economic Literature, 34 (1), 9–41.

Roland, G. (2000). Transition and Economics: Politics, Markets, and Firms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 430.

Schmid, A. (2004). Conflict and Cooperation: Institutional and Behavioral Economics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 342.

Sharikov, A. V. (2013). Televideniye i obshchestvo: nravstvennyi konflikt [Television and Society:
A Moral Conflict]. Khudozhestvennaya kul’tura [Art & Culture Studies], 3 (8), 3. (In Russ.)

Sokolov, M., & Titaev, K. (2013). Provintsial’naya i tuzemnaya nauka [“Provincial” and “Indigenous” Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences]. Antropologicheskiy forum [Forum for Anthropology and Culture], 19, 239–275. (In Russ.)

Tambovtsev, V. L. (2015). Mif o “kulturnom kode” v ekonomicheskikh issledovaniyakh [The Myth of the “Culture Code” in Economic Research]. Voprosy Ekonomiki, 12, 85–106. https://doi.org/10.32609/0042-8736-2015-12-85-106 (In Russ.)

Tambovtsev, V. L. (2019). Upravleniye bez izmereniy [Management without Measurement]. Terra Economicus, 17 (3), 6–29. http://dx.doi.org/10.23683/2073-6606-2019-17-3-6-29 (In Russ.)

Thelen, K. (2009). Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 47 (3), 471–498. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8543.2009.00746.x

Veblen, T. (1922). The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. N.Y.: B.W. Huebsch.

Veblen, T. (1961). The Place of Science in Modern Civilisation and Other Essays by Thorstein Veblen. N.Y.: Russel & Russel.

Veblen, T. (2003). Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution. Kitchener: Batoche Books, 147.

Veblen, T. (2006). Pochemu ekonomika ne yavlyayetsya evolyutsionnoy naukoy? [Why is Economics not an Evolutionary Science?]. Ekonomicheskiy vestnik Rostovskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta [Economic Herald of Rostov State University], 4 (2), 99–111. (In Russ.)

Veblen, T. (2018). Inzhenery i tsenovaya sistema [The Engineers and the Price System]. Translated by I. Koshkin. In A. Smirnov (Ed.). Moscow, Russia: HSE Publ., 112. (In Russ.)

Vernikov, A. (2019). Komu i zachem bylo nuzhno garantirovanie bankovskikh vkladov? [Explicit Deposit Guarantee in Russia: Who Needed It and What For?]. Ekonomicheskaya sotstiologiya [Journal of Economic Sociology], 20 (2), 104–121. (In Russ.)

Vernikov, A. (2020). “Institutsionalnaya lovushka”: nauchnyy termin ili krasivaya metafora? [How Much Substance is There Behind the Concept of “Institutional Trap”?]. Journal of Institutional Studies, 12 (2), 25–37. https://doi.org/10.17835/2076-6297.2020.12.2.025-037 (In Russ.)

Vernikov, A. V. (2009). Mutatsiya importnykh institutov (na primere institutov korporativnogo upravleniya [Corporate governance institutions in Russia: Import and mutation)]. In R. N. Evstigneev (Ed.), Kontseptualnyye problemy rynochnoy transformatsii v Rossii [Conceptual Issues of Market Transformation in Russia] (pp. 217–249). Moscow, Russia: Institute of Economics of RAS. (In Russ.)

Veselov, D. A., & Yarkin, A. M. (2022). Institutsionalnyye izmeneniya, neravenstvo i dolgosrochnoye ekonomicheskoye razvitiye: teoriya i empirika [Institutional Changes, Inequality and Long-Run Economic Development: Theory and Empirics]. Voprosy Ekonomiki, 1, 47–71. https://doi.org/10.32609/0042-8736-2022-1-47-71 (In Russ.)

Volchik, V. V. (2007). Kray upushchennykh vozmozhnostey: institutsionalnaya istoriya Donskogo agrarnogo i torgovogo predprinimatelstva [The Edge of Missed Opportunities: The Institutional History of the Don Agrarian and Commercial Entrepreneurship]. Istoriko-ekonomicheskie issledovaniya [Historical and Economic Research], 8 (3), 85–103. (In Russ.)

Volchik, V. V., & Berezhnoy, I. V. (2006). Institut vlasti-sobstvennosti i rossiyskiy khozyaystvennyy poryadok v kontekste evolyutsionnoi ekonomicheskoi teorii [The Institution of Power and Property and the Russian Economic Order in the Context of Evolutionary Economic Theory]. Izvestiya vysshikh uchebnykh zavedeniy. Severo-Kavkazskiy region. Obshchestvennye nauki [Bulletin of Higher Educational Institutes. North Caucasus Region. Social Sciences], 4, 87–92. (In Russ.)

Volchik, V. V., Koryttsev, M. A., & Maslyukova, E. V. (2019). Instituty i ideologiya menedzherizma v sfere vysshego obrazovaniya i nauki [Institutions and Ideology of Managerialism in Higher Education and Science]. Upravlenets — The Manager, 10 (6), 15–27. http://dx.doi.org/10.29141/2218-5003-2019-10-6-2 (In Russ.)

Waylen, G. (2013). Informal Institutions, Institutional Change, and Gender Equality. Political Research Quarterly, 67 (1), 212–223. https://doi.org/10.1177/1065912913510360

Whalen, Ch. J. (2022). Storytelling and Institutional Change. In Whalen, Ch. (Ed.) Institutional Economics. Perspectives and Methods in Pursuit of a Better World (pp. 247–270). London: Routledge.

Woodruff, D. (2004). Property Rights in Context: Privatization’s Legacy for Corporate Legality in Poland and Russia. Studies in Comparative International Development, 38 (4), 82–108. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02686329