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Seeing institutions in different ways
Seeing institutions in different ways

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Individual agency and institutional contradiction

Engberg-Pedersen is as generous as Brett with his insights into the qualities of institutions and the nature of institutional development. Two aspects of his theoretical approach are of particular significance:

  • Individual agency: Engberg-Pedersen places particular value on an individual’s critical engagement with elements of institutions that frame her or his behaviour. Quite apart from the general significance of this in institutional development, it has an important message with respect to professional behaviour and self-understanding. ‘Reflecting on the institutional context’ and choosing ‘action which confronts or bypasses a specific institutional element’ brings about change both socially and within the individual. The BancoSol story provides an example of one such action.
  • Institutional contradictions: This is the title of Engberg-Pedersen’s article. He identifies something that will, if you are involved in any process of development, strike you as a critical issue in the process: the encounter between different and differing ‘symbolic orders’, most obviously the symbolic orders of, on the one hand, the ‘interveners’, and, on the other, the ‘beneficiaries’. This is an encounter in which the new symbolic order contradicts the old, with the interveners in effect saying to the beneficiaries, ‘You’ve got it wrong’. The beneficiaries, in return, think that the interveners must have got it wrong.