Seeing institutions in different ways
Seeing institutions in different ways

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Seeing institutions in different ways

Compliance and shared experience

Brett conceptualised institutions as sets of rules and norms. But if you look more closely at the following passage, you will see that he is saying other things about institutions:

Institutions are sets of ‘rules that structure social interactions in particular ways’, based on knowledge ‘shared by members of the relevant community or society’ (Knight, 1992, p. 2). Compliance to those rules is enforced through known incentives or sanctions … Institutions, by producing stable, shared and commonly understood patterns of behaviour are crucial to solving the problems of collective action amongst individuals.

(Brett, 2000, p. 18)

I would highlight two concepts that emerge here:

  • compliance: individuals and organisations are obliged to comply with the rules, through incentives and/or sanctions
  • shared experience: institutions bring people and organisations together, ‘solving the problems of collective action’ (Brett, 2000, p. 18).

You can be disciplined, and ask the five Ws and H questions of each of these concepts. Take, for example, compliance:

  • Who are the enforcers?
  • What are the incentives/sanctions?
  • Where do the incentives/sanctions come from?
  • When does it become necessary to apply sanctions?
  • Why are sanctions required?
  • How are the sanctions enforced?

I am not going to devise a set of five Ws and H questions for all the concepts I am identifying here! I would encourage you, though, to do what I have just done, and devise your own questions for at least one of these concepts.

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