11th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Costa

Jacopo Costa

The Role of Conflict on the Institutional Evolution

The aim of this paper is to define the engine feeding the evolution of the institutional environment characterizing a specific state and political system. Here, the concept of institutions is considered following a comprehensive definition, able to include both their legal and formal aspects, and also their substantial and informal nature. This permits to consider them like the living and transforming forces constituting the social contract, able to adapt to the conditions of the social environment. The source of this mechanism of change is identified in the conflicting and interactive relations between the excluded and included groups. These relations are able to shape the structures and contents of the institutions and social contracts. In particular, the pressure on the elite to change the system structure provokes their counter-action, characterized by the alternation between competition, cooptation and cooperation. In this framework, the concept of relative power assumes absolute relevance, because it represents the relative and interactive capacity of each group in respect to the others. To better specify this relation, it is initially relevant to define the environment where does the interactions between actors and factors happen. In particular, two different frameworks – represented by the complexity and panarchy theory – are used. These are very useful to understand the evolutions and accumulation of hierarchies and social structures, thanks to the concepts of chaos, nonlinearity and adaptive capacity. Secondly, the agency capacity of the actors is analyzed, particularly in its interactions with the external and internal factors characterizing the system. Thanks to this framework, we can contextualize the conflicting and interactional behaviors of the actors inside the frames of feedback mechanisms and emergent patterns. Both these perspective – defining the environment and the agency capacity of actors – are meaningful to understand the relation between conflict and institutional changes.