Values, Institutional Quality and Development in Portugal

Alejandro Portes, Maria Margarida Marques, Jean Nava

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This study aimed at gaining a greater understanding of the character, quality, and contributions to national development of Portuguese institutions through an intensive study of six national organizations deemed emblematic of those in their respective areas of activity. The study drew on a prior analysis of twenty-three Latin American institutions in five countries employing a similar methodology to facilitate cross-national comparisons. Results are presented in six qualitative ethnographies of the target organizations, plus tables of scores on six key hypothesized determinants of institutional quality and contributions to development: meritocracy, immunity to corruption, absence of islands of power, proactivity toward their environment, technological openness and flexibility, and presence of external allies.
Overall, Portuguese institutions are defined as capable of fulfilling the goals for which they were created and making significant contributions to the country’s socio-economic development. There are, however, major limitations that qualify this conclusion and significant differences among the institutions. Meritocracy is lacking in most of them and there is a bothersome presence of internal cliques (“islands of power”). While major instances of corruption appear to be a thing of the past, numerous instances of patrimonial and personalistic practices in several of these organizations were identified.
The institutional ethnographies were supplemented by surveys of each organization’s personnel designed to check on the validity of the qualitative ethnographies and expand their scope. Surveys were conducted on an anonymous basis to insure the validity of responses. Respondents confirmed the institutional weaknesses observed by the team of investigators, as well as the relative superiority of private institutions in the economic field over public ones rendering services to the general population.
The surveys also contained a battery of value items replicating those used in the European Social Survey (ESS). Results were systematically compared among personnel of the six institutions, as well as with those reported by ESS for the general Portuguese population. There are some notable discrepancies between both, with institutional personnel reporting less interest in personal power and traditional values and the general public endorsing both tradition and security over risk-taking. For the most part, however, there is a similar pattern for both samples on most of the ten value dimensions examined.
Implications of findings from the diverse parts of the study for theories of development in economics and sociology and for future institutional policies are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLisboa
PublisherFundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos
Number of pages96
ISBN (Print)9789898662934
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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