Concepts and definitions

How is credibility defined?

Credibility is defined as the collective expression of the functionality of institutions, or, more specifically, the reflection
of actors’ aggregate perceptions of endogenously emerged institutions as a common arrangement
.”  P. Ho (2017), Unmaking China’s Development, Cambridge University Press, p. 5.

What is the history of the concept of credibility?

[C]redibility was initially coined as an explanandum for the success and failure of Western monetary, anti-inflationary policies in the 1970s (Kydland and Prescott, 1977; Fellner, 1979). The widely flaunted idea was that the success of economic policy ultimately depends on the (state’s) credible commitment to free markets, trade liberalization, the privatization of government-owned enterprises and resources, and legal security for property rights. In this sense, the initial reading of the notion of credibility has a distinct neo-classical, neo-liberal signature. See P. Ho, “The ‘Credibility Thesis’ and its Application to Property Rights, Land Use Policy, 2014, 40, Sept, pp. 15-16.

How is an institution defined?

An institution is seen as: “a set of endogenously shaped (…) social rules” See P. Ho, “Myths of Tenure Security and Titling: Endogenous, Institutional Change of China’s Housing and Land”, Land Use Policy, 2015, Vol. 47, p. 353.

How is credibility related to endogeneity?

The principle of endogeneity or endogenous development attempts to chart a way out [of the dilemma why it is so difficult to ‘get institutions right’, PH] by positing that institutions and property rights are the resultant of social actors’ and economic agents’ interaction. In this view, institutions are not shaped and enforced by a single, outside agent, but instead through the mutual interaction of that agent with others. The endogeneity principle therefore precludes an external agency that can shape institutions, as any actor is involved in the ‘game’, albeit institutions may be perceived as externally shaped.” See P. Ho, “In Defense of Endogenous, Spontaneously Ordered Development”, Journal of Peasant Studies, 2013, 40/6, pp. 1091-92.

How is credibility related to intentionality (or agency)? What is Unintended Intentionality?

Endogeneity – as an important premise in Original Institutionalism– holds that institutional structure is not the result of intentional design by which institutions can be “wrongly” or “rightly” engineered. Instead, it emerges in an autonomous fashion resulting from actors’ incessant, multitudinous interactions. Put differently, although actors may have intentions, institutions spontaneously emerge as an unanticipated outcome of actors’ infinite bargaining and conflict; in effect, result from an endogenous, Unintended Intentionality.” See P. Ho, “Who Owns China’s Housing?”, Cities, 2017, 65, p. 2.

What sets credibility apart from trust or legitimacy?

Credibility is different from actors’ “trust” in institutions that emphasizes the relationship between social actors (…). Credibility, on the other hand, draws attention to the nature of institutions and property rights, and to how they are perceived. To understand that nature, one needs to go beyond form and assess the rules in use, what they represent, and what function they fulfill.” See P. Ho, “The ‘Credibility Thesis’ and its Application to Property Rights, Land Use Policy, 2014, 40, Sept., p. 16.

Legitimacy, derived from the Latin legitimare (i.e., to make lawful) inherently bears the connotation to externality and rational agency – either on the part of the governors (who allegedly can actively establish a certain rule), or on the part of those governed (who allegedly can actively change that rule). By contrast, the focus on institutional function rejects axioms of externality and rational agency, as credibility is a measure of how institutions are formed and perceived as a result of autonomous, endogenous patterns of interaction and power differences. See ibid., p. 16.

Furthermore, although credibility is undoubtedly related to distributional conflict, it does not posit that a “fully credible institution” – if that ever exists – would also be free from conflict. (…) Therefore, whereas legitimacy is perhaps more mono-dimensionally related to social conflict and discontent, credibility by definition presupposes a wider array of indicators by which it could and should be measured, depending on the temporally and spatially determined functions of institutions.” See ibid., p. 16.