Although still largely overseen by the legal scholarship, informal institutions – processes based on unwritten rules and narratives that are created and enforced outside officially sanctioned channels – play an important role in understanding the dynamics between state powers, including the judiciary. For example, various “gentlemen’s pacts” may substitute formal rules governing judicial selection, entrenching patronage, nepotism and gender segregation. Similarly, corruption and telephone justice undermine formal safeguards of separation of powers. In contrast, other informal institutions may counteract democratic decay. For instance, judges may team up with journalists and mobilize the public to defend the judiciary. Informality can thus be a force for the good or the bad.
This working group addresses the question how informal institutions affect functioning of the state and under what circumstances they counteract or contribute to democratic decay. We will build on a comparative legal perspective combined with sociological and political science approaches. We pursue three aims: 1) to identify the most important informal institutions in different countries and develop their typology, 2) to assess their interaction and impact on formal institutions and the state, and 3) to analyse the dynamics of informal institutions, that is how they reproduce themselves and under what circumstances they change.