Arranged marriages in India

By Kelly Ursem

Gretchen Helmke and Steven Levitsky defines Informal institutions “as socially shared rules, usually unwritten, that are created, communicated, and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels”. Although informal institutions are not officially written down rules, they are able to create a solid structure for society to follow.  Informal institutions can come in four different types; complementary, accommodating, competing and substitutive informal institutions as seen in the table below.

Arranged marriage could be said to be a form of informal institutions; which is a ritual that occurs in India on a regular basis whereby their perception of the institution of marriage is very different than from the West. Arranged marriage is defined as a marriage planned and agreed by the families or guardians of the couple concerned, whereby this tradition lacks any official and legal recognition or support – yet is followed by many Indian families.

This practice involves several processes including practices like matching the horoscope of the couple in order to ensure compatibility, the background of the families and their castes, which are practices that all arranged marriages go through, even though they are not officially written down rules. Whereby originally, the bride and groom are not asked for consent or informed about their future partner, however, with the evolution to more modern societies, both partners are now asked for their consent. Hereby showing how the institution can be changed over time, even though they take a long time to change. Thus, it can be seen that although this is an informal institution, families of arranged marriages follow the same rules and processes that is widely known and accepted within the Indian culture, before the official institution of marriage is carried out.

Nigeria’s Democratization Caused for Concern

By Kelly Ursem

Nigeria is one of the many countries that democratized over the past decades. Nigeria’s process of democratization occurred in 1999 after 16 years of military rule. However, in most cases it is expected that democratization is the process that allows countries to transition to a more stable state, allow for development, inclusion and participation of citizens,  however, Nigeria’s democratization is a cause for concern.  

Nigeria’s transition to democracy was driven endogenously by its people by collectively electing president Olusegun Obasanjo in order to prevent another military take-over with violence, whereby they looked forward to stability, peace and prosperity. However, Nigeria faced a great backlash with several critical governing problems, including ethno-nationalism (the issue of ethic cleavages), human right violations and corruption (to name the most important dynamics) that disrupted Nigeria’s ability to develop as a state. Corruption, leadership challenges and ethnicity caused for insecurity among citizens and the nation to collectively fall down, hereby becoming one of the 20th poorest nations in the world. Thus, Nigeria’s democratization lead to disempowerment, whereby the lack of strong institutions played a major role, in addition to Nigeria not involving all its stakeholders in their decision making and development.

Whereby it could be questioned whether Nigeria should really adopt a Western-style consensual political arrangement, and instead should try to adopt a system that is more suitable to its country’s ethnic circumstances if it wants to be the “Giant of Africa” that it once hoped to be. However, if it wants to remain a strong democracy, the country needs strengthening and building of institutions of government, rather than a personalized state of authority that is faced with corruption, ethnicity, leadership failure and other national problems.

Path dependency of international airports

By Kelly Ursem

Path dependency refers to the fact that history matters. It is an idea that states that decisions on a product or practice are dependent on past knowledge and will impact future events. Thus, we tend to continue on this path as our past choices make institutions and decisions “sticky” and resistant to adjustment as they become more costly to deviate from over time, thus remaining on a stable and ‘predictable’ path.

Positive feedback and increasing returns are important to consider when referring to path dependency, as it is a social process that exhibits increasing returns. These ideas hold that decisions are constricted by previous process that altered the costs and benefits of the choices made, therefore leadings to stable paths that are challenging to diverge from.

Decisions based on geographical location are forms of path dependency, such as Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Schiphol opened in 1916, 20 minutes away from the capital city of The Netherlands and was initially used as a local airbase for the military, and was gradually used by other civil airports in 1920. The airport expanded over time, hereby allowing over 100 different airlines to pass by weekly, whereby roads and urban development (such as buildings for businesses) were created based upon Schiphol’s location.

As Schiphol made the decision to expand and be accessible to other airlines, many institutions were set up based upon its location, such as roads leading to the airport, flying routes for airlines and the building of terminals and runways. Thus, Schiphol benefited from positive feedback and increasing returns as it has lead to a stable and successful path of expansion of the airport. Hence, the decision of allowing other civil airports to stop at Schiphol started the path, whereby a decision to relocate would be extremely costly, facing a lot of negative feedback.