Institutional Change and the Affordable Care Act

Theoretical advances in the study of institutional change center around a productive paradox. Change agents can take strategic action to change institutions, and yet institutions display remarkable formal stability. We therefore expect that attempts to change institutions are an empirical regularity and that many formal change attempts will fail. In this talk, we conceptualize failed institutional change attempts as key moments in institutional development, propose a framework to analyze their effects on institutional trajectories, and distinguish them from negative cases. The talk draws on the empirical case of the failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the US in 2017.