This article deals with the growing interest in social sciences about the analysis of institutional performances. Two different aims are pursued. The first one is to provide a review about publications in political science, as in sociology as well in the economic literature including the concept (or sometimes only the word) of institutional performance. This topic is treated trough a broad range of essays and books crossing boundaries and sub sectors in these disciplines: comparative politics, democratic consolidation, evaluation research, social capital, public policies and so on.
The review examines the conceptual definition and the methodological implication comparing the different interpretation of the meaning performance in the various branches of the social sciences. The second aim is to explore the epistemological and theoretical background of the concept analysing the ethimological roots, the economic origins and paradigmatic implications.
An interpretative schema is adopted presenting a classification that switches the concept of performance in two different properties: the procedural performance and the political performance. The first one belongs to institutional activities that are institutionalised (such as law making or performance management). The second one belongs to relationships between institutions and society (such as Putnam’s researches). An additional classification is provided in this category, distinguishing between institutional performance(analysis of the relationships assuming the point of view of society), and political capacity (analysis of the relationships assuming the point of view of institutions).