Johan Olsen

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Johan Peder Olsen (born August 13, 1939) is a Norwegian political scientist, and Professor Emeritus in Political Science at the University of Bergen, known for his work on new institutionalism.


  • Contemporary theories of politics tend to portray politics as a reflection of society, political phenomena as the aggregate consequences of individual behavior, action as the result of choices based on calculated self-interest, history as efficient in reaching unique and appropriate outcomes, and decision making and the allocation of resources as the central foci of political life. Some recent theoretical thought in political science, however, blends elements of these theoretical styles into an older concern with institutions. This new institutionalism emphasizes the relative autonomy of political institutions, possibilities for inefficiency in history, and the importance of symbolic action to an understanding of politics. Such ideas have a reasonable empirical basis, but they are not characterized by powerful theoretical forms. Some directions for theoretical research may, however, be identified in institutionalist conceptions of political order.
    • James G. March and Johan P. Olsen. "The new institutionalism: organizational factors in political life." American political science review 78.03 (1983): 734-749; Abstract.
  • Social, political and economic institutions have become larger, considerably more complex and resourceful, and prima facie more important to collective life. Many of the major actors in modern economic and political systems are formal organizations, and the institutions of law and bureaucracy occupy a dominant role in contemporary life.
    • James G. March and Johan Olsen, (1989) Rediscovering Institutions: The Organizational Basis of Politics. New York: Free Press. p. 1-2
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