The Virtual Center for Advanced Studies in Institution

Institutional research is becoming increasingly important to both scholarly development and effective policy analysis. A group of researchers of the Tokyo Foundation have started a new endeavor, the Virtual Center for Advanced Studies in Institution (VCASI, pronounced "vee-kasi"), using Internet technologies to enhance interdisciplinary communication.

My fellow researchers and I have recently begun a new endeavor, the Virtual Center for Advanced Studies in Institution (VCASI, pronounced "vee-kasi"), a Tokyo Foundation research project. Below I briefly explain our aims for this project with some thoughts of my own included. I hope that we will receive your support.

The Revival of Institutional Studies

After the 1990 publication of Douglass North's Institution, Institutional Change and Economic Performance , a revival of institutional studies occurred in the fields of economics, political science and sociology across the global academic community. It was around the same time that the fall of the Berlin Wall triggered the sudden demise of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Looking back, the 20th Century was a time when "the ideology of planning" became dominant, not only in the communist system but also even within the capitalist system in such forms as Keynesian policies, the war-time economy, industrial policy, and big business oligopoly, etc. However, at the end of the last century, many things occurred to diminish the power of such thinking, including the rise of the internet. Yet it soon became apparent that this did not mean the ultimate victory of the laissez-faire market economy either. Expanding opportunities for voluntary exchange undoubtedly benefits those parties involved, but looking around the world, one realizes from day to day that a trustworthy network of exchange will not develop if left on its own.

It is clear that this situation was one of the key factors in the revival of institutional studies. The market is without doubt one of the most important systems that make up society, but its functioning and the results it produces depend on its interaction with social norms, national institutions that formalize and execute the relationship between rights and duties, as well as technology and culture. The relationship between these elements is greatly dependent on a country or region's history (if we were to use the technical term this would be called "historical path dependency"). Therefore, policies within such a system must have a measure of compatibility-or "fit"-with these historically determined relationships if they are to be effective. The confusion seen in the policies of the US occupation in Iraq is a case in point. Thus institutional research is of vital importance to policy research... Read more (link to the Tokyo Foundation's " VCASI " website)

Masahiko Aoki

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    Professor Emeritus, Stanford University