Accidents and Power in Institutional Changes: The Case of a Chinese Hospital in Hong Kong

Prof. Shu Yun Ma
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Path dependency analysis has become increasingly popular in political studies, particularly in investigations about institutional stability and changes. According to this approach, institutions once formed are resistant to major changes. They tend to be "path dependent", resulting in consequences and inefficiencies that are unexpected at the time of formation of the institutions, and institutional changes will take place at "critical junctures" that are often produced by "accidents".

This paper will examine the role of "accident" in causing institutional changes, based on a case study of the changes in the role of a Chinese hospital (ie. hospital that provide traditional Chinese medical treatments to inpatients) in Hong Kong's public health system. The history of this hospital seems to suggest that two plagues - a bubonic plague in 1894 and the SARS outbreak in 2003 - were the accidents that led to changes in the institutional status of Chinese hospital in Hong Kong. This article will argue that these "accidents" should be analyzed in the context of sovereignty changes. It is the ceding of Hong Kong to Britain in 1840, and the handover of the sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997 that respectively made these two "accidents" matter. That is to say, power is more important than "accidents" in explaining institutional changes. The theoretical implication is: does accident exist?

Keywords: Institutionalism, Accidents, Power
Stream: Political Science, Politics
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. Shu Yun Ma

Associate Professor, Department of Government and Public Administration, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Ref: H06P0355