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Institutions, according to
Samuel P. Huntington Samuel Phillips Huntington (April 18, 1927 – December 24, 2008) was an American political scientist, adviser and academic. He spent more than half a century at Harvard University Harvard University is a Private university, private Ivy ...
, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior." Institutions can refer to mechanisms which govern the
behavior Behavior (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English ...
of a set of
individual An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity Entity may refer to: Computing * Character entity reference, replacement text for a character in HTML or XML * Entity class, a thing of interest within an entity–relationship model or d ...
s within a given community, and are identified with a
social purpose Within the context of law, "social purpose" is a scheme of statutory construction declaring that a statute should not be construed in a way that would violate normal societal values or good. Example of cases in which this rule of construction was ...
, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern living behavior. According to Geoffrey M. Hodgson, it is misleading to say that an institution is a form of behavior. Instead, Hodgson states that institutions are "integrated systems of rules that structure social interactions." The term "institution" commonly applies to both informal institutions such as customs, or behavior patterns important to a
society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be ...

society
, and to particular formal institutions created by law as well as custom and having a distinctive permanence in ordering social behaviors. Primary or meta-institutions are institutions such as the
family In , family (from la, familia) is a of people related either by (by recognized birth) or (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of families is to maintain the well-being of its members and of society. Ideally, families would off ...

family
that are broad enough to encompass other institutions. Institutions are a principal object of study in
social sciences Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of socio ...

social sciences
such as
political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of ...
,
anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the present and past, including . studies patterns of behaviour, while studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. studies how language influences social life. studi ...
,
economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was fo ...

economics
, and
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly ...
(the latter described by
Émile Durkheim David Émile Durkheim ( or ; 15 April 1858 – 15 November 1917) was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline of sociology and, with Max Weber Maximilian Karl Emil Weber (; ; 21 April 186414 June 1920) was a Ge ...

Émile Durkheim
as the "science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning"). Institutions are also a central concern for
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
, the formal mechanism for political rule-making and enforcement and a topic for historians.


Definition

There are a variety of definitions of institutions. These definitions entail varying levels of formality and organizational complexity. The most expansive definitions may include informal but regularized practices, such as handshakes, whereas the most narrow definitions may only include institutions that are highly formalized (e.g. have specified laws, rules and complex organizational structures). According to Wolfgang Streeck and Kathleen Thelen, institutions are in the most general sense "building blocks of social order: they represent socially sanctioned, that is, collectively enforced expectations with respect to the behavior of specific categories of actors or to the performance of certain activities. Typically they involve mutually related rights and obligations for actors." Sociologists and anthropologists have expansive definitions of institutions that include informal institutions. Political scientists have sometimes defined institutions in more formal ways where third parties must reliably and predictably enforce the rules governing the transactions of first and second parties. One prominent Rational Choice Institutionalist definition of institutions is provided by Jack Knight who defines institutions as entailing "a set of rules that structure social interactions in particular ways" and that "knowledge of these rules must be shared by the members of the relevant community or society." Definitions by Knight and Randall Calvert exclude purely private idiosyncrasies and conventions.
Douglass North Douglass Cecil North (November 5, 1920 – November 23, 2015) was an American economist known for his work in economic history. He was the co-recipient (with Robert William Fogel) of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. In the word ...

Douglass North
defines institutions as "rules of the game in a society" and "humanly devised constraints that structure political, economic and social interactions." Randall Calvert defines institution as "an equilibrium of behavior in an underlying game." This means that "it must be rational for nearly every individual to almost always adhere to the behavior prescriptions of the institution, given that nearly all other individuals are doing so."
Robert Keohane Robert Owen Keohane (; born October 3, 1941) is an American academic An academy ( Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary or tertiary higher learning, research, or honorary membership. ...
defined institutions as "persistent and connected sets of rules (formal or informal) that prescribe behavioral roles, constrain activity, and shape expectations."
Avner Greif Avner Greif (; born 1955) is an economics professor at Stanford University, Stanford, California. He holds a chaired professorship as Bowman Family Professor in the Humanities and Sciences. Greif received his PhD in Economics at Northwestern Unive ...
and David Laitin define institutions "as a system of human-made, nonphysical elements – norms, beliefs, organizations, and rules – exogenous to each individual whose behavior it influences that generates behavioral regularities." Additionally, they specify that organizations "are institutional elements that influence the set of beliefs and norms that can be self-enforcing in the transaction under consideration. Rules are behavioral instructions that facilitate individuals with the cognitive task of choosing behavior by defining the situation and coordinating behavior." All definitions of institutions generally entail that there is a level of persistence and continuity. Laws, rules, social conventions and norms are all examples of institutions.
Organizations An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has ...

Organizations
and institutions can be synonymous, but Jack Knight writes that organizations are a narrow version of institutions or represent a cluster of institutions; the two are distinct in the sense that organizations ''contain'' internal institutions (that govern interactions between the members of the organizations). An informal institution tends to have socially shared rules, which are unwritten and yet are often known by all inhabitants of a certain country, as such they are often referred to as being an inherent part of the culture of a given country. Informal practices are often referred to as "cultural", for example clientelism or corruption is sometimes stated as a part of the political culture in a certain place, but an informal institution itself is not cultural, it may be shaped by culture or behaviour of a given political landscape, but they should be looked at in the same way as formal institutions to understand their role in a given country. The relationship between formal and informal institutions is often closely aligned and informal institutions step in to prop up inefficient institutions. However, because they do not have a centre, which directs and coordinates their actions, changing informal institutions is a slow and lengthy process.


Examples

Examples of institutions include: *
Family In , family (from la, familia) is a of people related either by (by recognized birth) or (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of families is to maintain the well-being of its members and of society. Ideally, families would off ...

Family
: The family is the center of the child's life. The family teaches children cultural values and attitudes about themselves and others – see
sociology of the family Sociology of the family is a subfield of the subject of sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationsh ...
. Children learn continuously from their environment. Children also become aware of class at a very early age and assign different values to each class accordingly. *
Religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology ...

Religion
: Some religion is like an ethnic or cultural category, making it less likely for the individuals to break from religious affiliations and be more socialized in this setting. Parental religious participation is the most influential part of religious socialization—more so than religious peers or religious beliefs. See
sociology of religion Sociology of religion is the study of the belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes ...
and
civil religionCivil religion, also referred to as a civic religion, is the implicit religious values of a nation, as expressed through public ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered p ...
. *
Peer group In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytolo ...
s: A peer group is a social group whose members have interests, social positions and age in common. This is where children can escape supervision and learn to form relationships on their own. The influence of the peer group typically peaks during adolescence however peer groups generally only affect short term interests unlike the family which has long term influence. *
Economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the co ...
s: Economic systems dictate "acceptable alternatives for consumption", "social values of consumption alternatives", the "establishment of dominant values", and "the nature of involvement in consumption". *
Legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems A system is a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and infl ...
s: Children are pressured from both parents and peers to conform and obey certain laws or norms of the group/community. Parents’ attitudes toward legal systems influence children's views as to what is legally acceptable. For example, children whose parents are continually in jail are more accepting of incarceration. See
jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whol ...
,
philosophy of law Philosophy of law is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, an ...
,
sociology of law The sociology of law (or legal sociology) is often described as a sub-discipline of sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and th ...
. *
Penal system A prison (also known as a jail or gaol (dated, British, Australian Australians, colloquially referred to as "Aussies", are the citizens, nationality, nationals and individuals associated with the country of Australia. Between 1788 ...
s: The penal systems acts upon prisoners and the guards. Prison is a separate environment from that of normal society; prisoners and guards form their own communities and create their own social norms. Guards serve as "social control agents" who discipline and provide security. From the view of the prisoners, the communities can be oppressive and domineering, causing feelings of defiance and contempt towards the guards. Because of the change in societies, prisoners experience loneliness, a lack of emotional relationships, a decrease in identity and "lack of security and autonomy". Both the inmates and the guards feel tense, fearful, and defensive, which creates an uneasy atmosphere within the community. See
sociology of punishment The sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The ...
. *
Language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

Language
: People learn to socialize differently depending on the specific language and culture in which they live.Ochs, Elinor. 1988.
Culture and language development: Language acquisition and language socialization in a Samoan village
'. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ochs, Elinor, and Bambi Schieffelin. 1984. Language Acquisition and Socialization: Three Developmental Stories and Their Implications. In ''Culture Theory: Essays on Mind, Self, and Emotion''. R. Shweder and R.A. LeVine, eds. pp. 276–320. New York: Cambridge University. Schieffelin, Bambi B. 1990. ''The Give and Take of Everyday Life: Language Socialization of Kaluli Children''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
A specific example of this is code switching. This is where immigrant children learn to behave in accordance with the languages used in their lives: separate languages at home and in peer groups (mainly in educational settings). Depending on the language and situation at any given time, people will socialize differently. See
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguistics
,
sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, ...
,
sociology of language Sociology of language is the study of the relations between language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages ...
. *
Mass media Mass media refers to a diverse array of media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media, content, buying and placement fo ...
: The mass media are the means for delivering impersonal communications directed to a vast audience. The term ''media'' comes from Latin meaning, "middle", suggesting that the media's function is to connect people. The media can teach norms and values by way of representing symbolic reward and punishment for different kinds of behavior. Mass media has enormous effects on our attitudes and behavior, notably in regards to aggression.Macionis, John J., and Linda M. Gerber. Sociology. Toronto: Pearson Canada, 2011. Print. See
media studies Media studies is a discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history, and effects of various media; in particular, the mass media Mass media refers to a diverse array of media (communication), media technology, technologies ...
. *
Education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion ...

Education
al institutions –
school A school is an educational institution An educational institution is a place where people of different ages gain an education, including preschools, childcare, primary-elementary schools, secondary-high schools, and universities. They p ...

school
s (
preschool A preschool, also known as nursery school, pre-primary school, or play school, is an educational establishment or learning space Learning space or learning setting refers to a physical setting for a learning environment, a place in whic ...
, primary/elementary,
secondary Secondary is an adjective meaning "second" or "second hand". It may refer to: * Secondary (chemistry), term used in organic chemistry to classify various types of compounds * The group of (usually at least four) defensive backs in gridiron football ...
, and post-secondary/higher –see
sociology of education Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to t ...
) *
Research Research is "creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization and analysis of information to increase understanding of a topic or issue. A research project may be an expa ...

Research
community –
academia An academy (Attic Greek Attic Greek is the dialect of the of , including the ' of . Often called classical Greek, it was the dialect of the for centuries and remains the standard form of the language that is taught to students of . As the ...

academia
and
universities A university () is an of (or ) and which awards s in several . Universities typically offer both and programs in different schools or faculties of learning. The word ''university'' is derived from the ''universitas magistrorum et scholari ...

universities
;
research institute A research institute, research centre, or research center is an establishment founded for doing research. Research institutes may specialize in basic research or may be oriented to applied research. Although the term often implies natural science ...
s – see
sociology of science Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behaviour, patterns of Interpersonal ties, social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It uses various methods of Empirica ...
*
Medicine Medicine is the science Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts ( descriptive knowledge), skills (proced ...

Medicine
hospital A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment with specialized Medical Science, health science and Allied Healthcare, auxiliary healthcare staff and medical equipment. The best-known type of hospital is the general hospit ...

hospital
s and other
health care Healthcare is the maintenance or improvement of health Health, according to the , is "a state of complete physical, and social and not merely the absence of and ".. (2006)''Constitution of the World Health Organization''– ''Basic Docume ...

health care
institutions – see
sociology of health and illness Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to t ...
,
medical sociology Medical sociology is the sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or so ...
**
Psychiatric hospital Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental health units or behavioral health units, are hospital A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment with specialized medical and nursing staff and medical equipment. The best ...
s (
history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...
) *
Military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or pa ...

Military
or
paramilitary Paramilitary forces usually tend to wear similar but different uniforms to the military, for instance gray " urban camouflage".A paramilitary organization is a semi-militarized force whose organizational structure, tactics, training, subcultur ...
forces – see military sociology * Industry –
business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit." Having a business name A trad ...

business
es, including
corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the State (polity), state to act as a single entity (a legal entity recognized by private and public law "born out of statute"; a legal person in legal ...

corporation
s – see
financial institution Financial institutions, otherwise known as banking institutions, are corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the State (polity), state to act as a single entity (a legal entit ...
,
factory A factory, manufacturing plant or a production plant is an Industry (manufacturing), industrial site, often a complex consisting of several buildings filled with Outline of industrial machinery, machinery, where workers manufacturing, manufactu ...

factory
,
capitalism Capitalism is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea o ...

capitalism
,
division of labour The division of labour is the separation of tasks in any economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an ...
,
social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those soc ...
,
industrial sociology Industrial sociology, until recently a crucial research area within the field of sociology of work, examines "the direction and implications of trends in technological Technology ("science of craft", from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''techne'', ...
*
Civil society Civil society can be understood as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad ...
or
NGOs upright=1.3, alt=A roomful of people, Europe-Georgia Institute head George Melashvili addresses the audience at the launch of the "Europe in a suitcase" project by two NGOs (the EGI and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation), which aims to increase ...
charitable organization A charitable organization or charity is an organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy Philanthropy consists of "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life Quality of life (QOL) is defined by the Wor ...
s;
advocacy group Advocacy groups, also known as special interest groups, use various forms of advocacy Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social institutions. Advocacy include ...
s;
political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
;
think tank A think tank, or policy institute, is a research institute A research institute, research centre, or research center is an establishment founded for doing research Research is "creativity, creative and systematic work undertaken to inc ...
s;
virtual communities A virtual community is a social network A social network is a social structure In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergence, emergent from and determinant of the Structu ...
In an extended context: *
Art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use ...

Art
and
culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals i ...

culture
(See also: culture industry, critical theory,
cultural studies #REDIRECT Cultural studies #REDIRECT Cultural studies#REDIRECT Cultural studies Cultural studies is a field of theoretically, politically, and empirically engaged cultural analysis that concentrates upon the political dynamics of contemporary cul ...
,
cultural sociology The sociology of culture, and the related cultural sociology, concerns the systematic analysis of culture, usually understood as the ensemble of symbolic codes used by a member of a society, as it is manifested in the society. For Georg Simmel, ...
) * The
nation-state A nation state is a political unit where the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newsp ...
– Social and political scientists often speak of the state as embodying all institutions such as schools, prisons, police, and so on. However, these institutions may be considered private or autonomous, whilst organised religion and family life certainly pre-date the advent of the nation state. The
Neo-Marxist Neo-Marxism is a Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand Social class, class relations and social conflict as ...
thought of
Antonio Gramsci Antonio Francesco Gramsci (, ; ; 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affe ...
, for instance, distinguishes between institutions of political society (police, the army, legal system, etc.), which dominate directly and coercively—and civil society (the family, education system, etc.).


Social science perspectives

While institutions tend to appear to people in society as part of the natural, unchanging landscape of their lives, study of institutions by the social sciences tends to reveal the nature of institutions as
social construction Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Episte ...
s,
artifactArtifact, or artefact, may refer to: Science and technology *Artifact (error) In natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that ...
s of a particular time, culture and society, produced by collective human choice, though not directly by individual intention. Sociology traditionally analyzed social institutions in terms of interlocking social
role A role (also rôle or social role) is a set of connected behaviors, rights, moral obligation, obligations, beliefs, and social norm, norms as conceptualized by people in a social situation. It is an expected or free or continuously changing behav ...
s and expectations. Social institutions created and were composed of groups of roles, or expected behaviors. The social function of the institution was executed by the fulfillment of roles. Basic biological requirements, for reproduction and care of the young, are served by the institutions of marriage and family, for example, by creating, elaborating and prescribing the behaviors expected for husband/father, wife/mother, child, etc. The relationship of the institutions to human nature is a foundational question for the social sciences. Institutions can be seen as "naturally" arising from, and conforming to, human nature—a fundamentally conservative view—or institutions can be seen as artificial, almost accidental, and in need of architectural redesign, informed by expert social analysis, to better serve human needs—a fundamentally progressive view.
Adam Smith Adam Smith ( 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher as well as a moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and ...

Adam Smith
anchored his economics in the supposed human "propensity to truck, barter and exchange". Modern
feminists Feminism is a range of social movements and ideology, ideologies that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social gender equality, equality of the sexes. Feminism incorporates the position that societies priori ...

feminists
have criticized traditional marriage and other institutions as element of an oppressive and obsolete
patriarchy Patriarchy is a social system In , social system is the patterned network of relationships constituting a coherent whole that exist between individuals, groups, and institutions. It is the formal of role and status that can form in a smal ...

patriarchy
. The Marxist view—which sees human nature as historically 'evolving' towards voluntary social cooperation, shared by some
anarchist Anarchism is a political philosophy and Political movement, movement that is sceptical of authority and rejects all involuntary, coercive forms of hierarchy. Anarchism calls for the abolition of the State (polity), state, which it holds to ...

anarchist
s—is that supra-individual institutions such as the market and the state are incompatible with the individual liberty of a truly free society. Economics, in recent years, has used
game theory Game theory is the study of mathematical model A mathematical model is a description of a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. ...
to study institutions from two perspectives. Firstly, how do institutions survive and evolve? In this perspective, institutions arise from
Nash equilibria In game theory Game theory is the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction among Rational agent, rational decision-makers.Roger B. Myerson, Myerson, Roger B. (1991). ''Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict,'' Harvard University Pre ...
of games. For example, whenever people pass each other in a corridor or thoroughfare, there is a need for customs, which avoid collisions. Such a custom might call for each party to keep to their own right (or left—such a choice is arbitrary, it is only necessary that the choice be uniform and consistent). Such customs may be supposed to be the origin of rules, such as the rule, adopted in many countries, which requires driving automobiles on the right side of the road. Secondly, how do institutions affect behaviour? In this perspective, the focus is on behaviour arising from a given set of institutional rules. In these models, institutions determine the rules (i.e. strategy sets and utility functions) of games, rather than arise as equilibria out of games.
Douglass North Douglass Cecil North (November 5, 1920 – November 23, 2015) was an American economist known for his work in economic history. He was the co-recipient (with Robert William Fogel) of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. In the word ...

Douglass North
argues, the very emergence of an institution reflects behavioral adaptations through his application of
increasing returns In economics, diminishing returns is the decrease in the Marginalism, marginal (incremental) output a production (economics), production process as the amount of a single Factors of production, factor of production is incrementally increased, while ...
. Over time institutions develop rules that incentivize certain behaviors over others because they present less risk or induce lower cost, and establish path dependent outcomes. For example, the
Cournot duopoly Cournot competition is an economic An economy (; ) is an area of the production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organi ...
model is based on an institution involving an auctioneer who sells all goods at the market-clearing price. While it is always possible to analyze behaviour with the institutions-as-equilibria approach instead, it is much more complicated. In
political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of ...
, the effect of institutions on behavior has also been considered from a
meme A meme ( ) is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads by means of imitation from person to person within a culture and often carries symbolic meaning representing a particular phenomenon or theme. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ...

meme
perspective, like game theory borrowed from biology. A "memetic institutionalism" has been proposed, suggesting that institutions provide selection environments for political action, whereby differentiated retention arises and thereby a Darwinian evolution of institutions over time.
Public choice theory Public choice, or public choice theory, is "the use of economic An economy (; ) is an area of the production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in t ...
, another branch of economics with a close relationship to political science, considers how government policy choices are made, and seeks to determine what the policy outputs are likely to be, given a particular political decision-making process and context.
Credibility thesis The credibility thesis is a proposed Heterodox economics, heterodox theoretical framework for understanding how societal institutions or social rules come about and evolve. It posits that institutions emerge from intentional institution-building b ...
purports that institutions emerge from intentional institution-building but never in the originally intended form. Instead, institutional development is
endogenous Endogenous substances and processes are those that originate from within a system such as an organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Bi ...
and spontaneously ordered and institutional persistence can be explained by their credibility, which is provided by the function that particular institutions serve. In history, a distinction between eras or periods, implies a major and fundamental change in the system of institutions governing a society. Political and military events are judged to be of historical significance to the extent that they are associated with changes in institutions. In European history, particular significance is attached to the long transition from the
feudal Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society ...
institutions of the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
to the
modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recov ...
institutions, which govern contemporary life.


Theories of institutional emergence

Scholars have proposed different approaches to the emergence of institutions, such as spontaneous emergence, evolution and social contracts. Some scholars argue that institutions can emerge spontaneously without intent as individuals and groups converge on a particular institutional arrangement. Other approaches see institutional development as the result of evolutionary or learning processes. Other scholars see institutions as being formed through social contracts or rational purposeful designs.


Theories of institutional change

In order to understand why some institutions persist and other institutions only appear in certain contexts, it is important to understand what drives institutional change. Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson assert that institutional change is endogenous. They posit a framework for institutional change that is rooted in the distribution of resources across society and preexisting political institutions. These two factors determine de jure and de facto political power, respectively, which in turn defines this period's economic institutions and next period's political institutions. Finally, the current economic institutions determine next period's distribution of resources and the cycle repeats. Douglass North attributes institutional change to the work of "political entrepreneurs", who see personal opportunities to be derived from a changed institutional framework. These entrepreneurs weigh the expected costs of altering the institutional framework against the benefits they can derive from the change. North describes institutional change as a process that is extremely incremental, and that works through both formal and informal institutions. Lipscy argues that patterns of institutional change vary according to underlying characteristics of issue areas, such as network effects. In a 2020 study, Johannes Gerschewski created a two-by-two typology of institutional change depending on the sources of change (exogenous or endogenous) and the time horizon of change (short or long). In another 2020 study,
Erik Voeten Erik Voeten (born 1972) is a Dutch political scientist. Voeten studied public administration and public policy at the University of Twente The University of Twente (Dutch: ''Universiteit Twente''; , abbr. ) is a public In public relations ...
created a two-by-two typology of institutional design depending on whether actors have full agency or are bound by structures, and whether institutional designs reflect historical processes or are optimal equilibriums.


Institutional persistence

North argues that because of the preexisting influence that existing organizations have over the existing framework, change that is brought about is often in the interests of these organizations. This produces a phenomenon called path dependence, which states that institutional patterns are persistent and endure over time. These paths are determined at critical junctures, analogous to a fork in the road, whose outcome leads to a narrowing of possible future outcomes. Once a choice is made during a critical juncture, it becomes progressively difficult to return to the initial point where the choice was made. James Mahoney studies path dependence in the context of national regime change in Central America and finds that liberal policy choices of Central American leaders in the 19th century was the critical juncture that led to the divergent levels of development that we see in these countries today. The policy choices that leaders made in the context of liberal reform policy led to a variety of self-reinforcing institutions that created divergent development outcomes for the Central American countries. Though institutions are persistent, North states that paths can change course when external forces weaken the power of an existing organization. This allows other entrepreneurs to affect change in the institutional framework. This change can also occur as a result of gridlock between political actors produced by a lack of mediating institutions and an inability to reach a bargain. Artificial implementation of institutional change has been tested in political development but can have unintended consequences. North, Wallis, and Weingast divide societies into different social orders: open access orders, which about a dozen developed countries fall into today, and limited access orders, which accounts for the rest of the countries. Open access orders and limited access orders differ fundamentally in the way power and influence is distributed. As a result, open access institutions placed in limited access orders face limited success and are often coopted by the powerful elite for self-enrichment. Transition to more democratic institutions is not created simply by transplanting these institutions into new contexts, but happens when it is in the interest of the dominant coalition to widen access.


Natural selection

Ian LustickIan Steven Lustick (born 1949) is an American political scientist and specialist on the modern history and politics of the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region in Afro-Eurasia which g ...
suggests that the social sciences, particularly those with the institution as a central concept, can benefit by applying the concept of
natural selection Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype right , Here the relation between genotype and phenotype is illustrated, using a Punnett square, for the character of peta ...
to the study of how institutions change over time. By viewing institutions as existing within a
fitness landscape In evolutionary biology Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology that studies the evolution, evolutionary processes (natural selection, common descent, speciation) that produced the Biodiversity, diversity of life on Earth. In the 1930s ...
, Lustick argues that the gradual improvements typical of many institutions can be seen as analogous to hill-climbing within one of these fitness landscapes. This can eventually lead to institutions becoming stuck on
local maxima In mathematical analysis, the maxima and minima (the respective plurals of maximum and minimum) of a function (mathematics), function, known collectively as extrema (the plural of extremum), are the largest and smallest value of the function, ei ...
, such that for the institution to improve any further, it would first need to decrease its overall fitness score (e.g., adopt policies that may cause short-term harm to the institution's members). The tendency to get stuck on local maxima can explain why certain types of institutions may continue to have policies that are harmful to its members or to the institution itself, even when members and leadership are all aware of the faults of these policies. As an example, Lustick cites Amyx's analysis of the gradual rise of the Japanese economy and its seemingly sudden reversal in the so-called "Lost Decade". According to Amyx, Japanese experts were not unaware of the possible causes of Japan's economic decline. Rather, to return Japan's economy back to the path to economic prosperity, policymakers would have had to adopt policies that would first cause short-term harm to the Japanese people and government. Under this analysis, says Ian Lustick, Japan was stuck on a "local maxima", which it arrived at through gradual increases in its fitness level, set by the economic landscape of the 1970s and 80s. Without an accompanying change in institutional flexibility, Japan was unable to adapt to changing conditions, and even though experts may have known which changes the country needed, they would have been virtually powerless to enact those changes without instituting unpopular policies that would have been harmful in the short-term. The lessons from Lustick's analysis applied to Sweden's economic situation can similarly apply to the political gridlock that often characterizes politics in the United States. For example, Lustick observes that any politician who hopes to run for elected office stands very little to no chance if they enact policies that show no short-term results. Unfortunately, there is a mismatch between policies that bring about short-term benefits with minimal sacrifice, and those that bring about long-lasting change by encouraging institution-level adaptations. There are some criticisms to Lustick's application of natural selection theory to institutional change. Lustick himself notes that identifying the inability of institutions to adapt as a symptom of being stuck on a local maxima within a fitness landscape does nothing to solve the problem. At the very least, however, it might add credibility to the idea that truly beneficial change might require short-term harm to institutions and their members. David Sloan Wilson notes that Lustick needs to more carefully distinguish between two concepts: multilevel selection theory and evolution on multi-peaked landscapes. Bradley Thayer points out that the concept of a fitness landscape and local maxima only makes sense if one institution can be said to be "better" than another, and this in turn only makes sense insofar as there exists some objective measure of an institution's quality. This may be relatively simple in evaluating the economic prosperity of a society, for example, but it is difficult to see how objectively a measure can be applied to the amount of freedom of a society, or the quality of life of the individuals within.


Institutionalization

The term "institutionalization" is widely used in social theory to refer to the process of embedding something (for example a concept, a social role, a particular value or mode of behavior) within an organization, social system, or society as a whole. The term may also be used to refer to committing a particular individual to an institution, such as a mental institution. To this extent, "institutionalization" may carry negative connotations regarding the treatment of, and damage caused to, vulnerable human beings by the oppressive or corrupt application of inflexible systems of social, medical, or legal controls by publicly owned, private or not-for-profit organizations. The term "institutionalization" may also be used in a political sense to apply to the creation or organization of governmental institutions or particular bodies responsible for overseeing or implementing policy, for example in the welfare or development.


See also

*
Academic institution Academic institution is an educational institution An educational institution is a place where people of different ages gain an education, including preschools, childcare, primary-elementary schools, secondary-high schools, and universities. They p ...
*
Actor analysis Actor analysis can be seen as an approach to environmental management Environmental resource management is the management of the interaction and impact of Society, human societies on the natural environment, environment. It is not, as the phrase ...
*
Base and superstructure In Marxist theory, society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same P ...
* Cultural reproduction *
DispositifDispositif or dispositive is a term used by the French intellectual Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault ( , ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, writer, political activist, and literary critic. Foucau ...

Dispositif
*
Historical institutionalismHistorical institutionalism (HI) is a new institutionalist social science approach that emphasizes how timing, sequences and path dependence Path dependence is when the decisions presented to people are dependent on previous decisions or experience ...
* Ideological state apparatus *
Institute An institute is an organisation An organization, or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; American and British English spelling differences#-ise, -ize (-isation, -ization), see spelling differences), ...

Institute
*
Institutional abuseInstitutional abuse is the maltreatment of a person (often children or older adults) from a system of power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the Int ...
*
Institutional economics Institutional economics focuses on understanding the role of the evolutionary Evolution is change in the Heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are ...
* Institutional logic *
Institutional memory Institutional memory is a collective set of facts, concepts, experiences and knowledge held by a group of people. Concept Institutional memory has been defined as "the stored knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understand ...
*
Institutional racism Institutional racism, also known as systemic racism, is a form of racism that is embedded through laws within society or an organization. It can lead to such issues as discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, politica ...
*
Institutionalist political economy Institutionalist political economy, also known as institutional political economy or IPE, refers to a body of political economy, thought to stem from the works of institutionalists such as Thorstein Veblen, John Commons, Wesley Mitchell Wesley C ...
* Linkage institution *
List of oldest institutions in continuous operationThis article contains a list of the oldest existing social institutions in continuous operation, by year of foundation, in the world. Inclusion in this list is determined by the date at which the entity met the traditional definition of an institutio ...
*
State State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
,
Nation A nation is a community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communities may share a sense ...

Nation
,
country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social ...

country
,
Sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relatio ...


References


Further reading

* Berger, P. L. and T. Luckmann (1966), ''The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge'', Anchor Books, Garden City, NY. * Chang, Ha-Joon (ed.) (2007)
''Institutional Change and Economic Development''
Anthem Press. * Greif, Avner (2006), ''Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade'', Cambridge University Press, * North, D. C. (1990),
Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance
'. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. * Schotter, A. (1981), ''The Economic Theory of Social Institutions''. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. * Gielen, P. (ed. 2013), ''Institutional Attitudes. Instituting Art in a Flat World.'' Valiz: Amsterdam. * Whyte, William H., '' The Organization Man'', Doubleday Publishing, 1956.
excerpts from Whyte's book
*
Social Institutions
" Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy {{Authority control
Comparative politics {{See also cat, Political schisms Comparisons, Politics Politics, Comparison Subfields of political science ...
Political science terminology