Seeing institutions in different ways
Seeing institutions in different ways

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

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.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371