Institutional Change and Electric Power in the City of Chicago

J. A. Throgmorton and Peter S. Fisher. 1993. Journal of Economic Issues 27, 1 (Mar): 117-152.

This paper presents a rich case study of how institutional change gets on the public agenda, how the terms of the debate are framed, and the conditions under which institutional adjustment occurs. The case focuses on public debate circa 1985-1989 concerning the possibility of not renewing the Commonwealth Edison Company’s franchise to sell electric power in the City of Chicago, and the City’s effort to explore options to remaining on Com Ed’s system. The authors conclude that institutional analysts who seek to persuade others to undertake recommended actions should understand that their models, forecasts, surveys, and analyses are rhetorical tropes that reply to prior utterances, seek to persuade specific audiences, contain open meanings that are subject to diverse interpretations, and help to constitute (or reconstitute) institutions.

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