We now turn to examining institutional constraints as the second of the two main concepts of the present study along with social capital. How do institutional constraints affect the forms and functions of social capital? How do they vary in the three case countries? As briefl y discussed in the fi rst chapter, an institution denotes a web of interrelated norms governing social relationships (Nee and Ingram 1998). Then, more specifi cally, where do institutional constraints come from? What is the relationship between institutional constraints and individual choice (even before elevating to the stage of social relations made by such choices)? These queries point to a classic enigma in sociology and other social sciences, namely whether agency forms structure or vice versa. I do not intend to delve into this philosophical inquiry, considering that the focal point of this study is the international comparison of social capital and its variations presumably generated by disparities in institutional arrangements across nations. Nonetheless, it is useful to check a few plausible ways of conceiving the relation between institutional constraints and individual choice since doing so may help us understand how institutional constraints and social capital are associated with each other. It is also necessary to identify the two representative forms of institutional constraints – political economy and culture. After a brief review of these issues, I then proceed to introduce the literature regarding the effect of institutional constraints on social capital, and show some specifi c institutional conditions in each case country.