Institutional Determinism Theory

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Ideas, institutions, and interests are what drive a state’s policy-making agendas. Institutions are not everything in politics, yet institutional determinism drives politics, choosing which ideas or interests to include or prioritize in a government’s legislative actions, argues Daniel J. Tichenor, the author of Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America. He states that policies are formed and balanced through institutional “veto” and “opportunity” points. One such institution that’s establishment is proof to Tichenor’s institutional determinism theory is the United States Immigration Commission, widely known as the Dillingham Commission. The Commission strategically influenced immigration policies through piling institutional …show more content…
Their intellect and bank of empirical evidence left them with an enormous power and an array of choices: they could invalidate or validate the restrictionists’ claims (i.e. that immigration of the darker Europeans, from Southern and Eastern Europe, hurt American society). Though it was perceived that the Commission’s empirical research on immigration favored restrictionism, they could have easily manipulated the social scientific data to favor cosmopolitans instead. Restrictionist lawmakers perceived the commission’s findings as an intellectual validity to their agendas and started adopting intellectual arguments to defend their agendas. However, it wasn’t just among restrictionists that the Commission found praise and validity. Other political actors viewed the Commission as “an impartial investigative and problem-solving body,” says Tichenor. He further argues that the Commission did not attempt to distance itself from what he refers to as “popular emotions” and “demagoguery,” but instead attempted to mirror those anxieties Americans were carrying and offered a so-called “pseudoscientific” validation for their anxieties, in addition to offering firm solutions, another reason why their influence was deeply felt amongst the Progressive Era Restrictionists.
Tichenor says that solving the immigration puzzle requires us “to move away from the assumption that institutions are merely the product or passive embodiment of ideas.” Whether it is embodiment of a scientific idea to carry out the restrictionist agenda or an official institution that favors immigration, institutions have the power to heavily influence

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