On institutions

28 06 2010

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What is it? I am reading the term through a Hegelian lens. In our usage, “institution” refers to a collective structure that embodies a particular ideal in a given society and governs its members strictly according to that ideal. In Hegel, the State is the institution par excellence. For our purposes, institutions are usually interpreted as political entities, churches, and movements in civil society.

What is wrong with institutions? Nothing in general. Also, it depends on what ideal the institution seeks to embody or propagate. “Institutionalization” can be, however, very problematic. Institutions tend to “flatten” all variations and localisms that do not totally conform to the defined ideal of the institution. That ideal is many times determined by the hegemonic dominance of one variation of an idea or polemic against positions deemed to be outside the ideal. When such ideals are then applied to local or individual circumstances, they tend to subvert or even do violence to local manifestations of culture, life, and thought.
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