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Social Sciences and Economics

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Political institutionalization has become a common concern and catchword, especially as regards the institutionalization of democracy in the post-communist countries and the design of an overarching cooperative order in Europe. However, institutionalization still is far from representing a well-defined analytical concept or an elaborated political strategy. An important question to be answered is: What are the preconditions for a successful strategy of conflict management, based on institutionalization? Cases in point are an envisaged all-European order under the umbrella of the OSCE, sub-regional cooperation (the Visegrád group) and ethnopolitics in the Baltic states. The concept of political institutionalization as defined in the paper draws from Samuel Huntington's classic definition in his book "Political Order in Changing Societies": Institutionalization is the process by which formal institutions and democratic procedures "acquire value and stability". Neoinstitutionalist criteria such as responsive problem treatment, benign elites and common repertoires of action are used to amend and operate the political strategies of conflict management contained in this core concept. Theoretical and empirical analysis shows that whether institutional design and transfer of values and norms result in an ameliorative transformation of conflict depends not so much on establishing effective problem-solving mechanisms and arenas for bargaining but on taking into account path-dependencies of the conflict process in point. Moreover, it is essential that institutionalization does not block the conflict process but opens new opportunities to continue it within a regulating framework.



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