Institutional function versus form: The evolutionary credibility of land, housing and natural resources
Land Use Policy
This special issue addresses a critical question in the studies regarding land, housing, and natural resources: how does institutional form relate to performance? The question has spawned numerous studies that examine the (cor)relation between formal, private, and titled rights in relationship to development and growth. Contrarily, the contributions posit that the question lacks meaning as institutional Form follows from Function. This premise -known as the "Credibility Thesis" -entails that
... uring institutions have been formed through endogenous evolution. As such, they are likely functionally adapted and, in effect, credible; otherwise, they would have changed, atrophied, or become extinct. Ergo, the speed of institutional change reflects credibility, and when informal or communal institutions apparently "persist", it is not to be defined in terms of being inefficient, perverse, or "second-best". Interventions such as titling and formalization that intend to alter enduring institutions should be performed with care and paying attention to their function. A crucial step towards 2 achieving this is the execution of an "institutional archaeology", to dissect institutional structures within spatio-temporally determined contexts and consider their credibility, as is done by the contributions here. The expounded theory is substantiated through a series of in-depth cases in different geographical and socio-economic settings. They range from construction land in urban China (as done by Clarke) to artisanal mining in Ghana (see Fold) as well as from informal settlements in India (see Zhang) to land-enclosed water rights in Bangladesh (Gomes and Hermans).