, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 485-512
Date: 10 Jun 2008

How to model an institution

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Abstract

Institutions are linkage mechanisms that bridge across three kinds of social divides—they link micro systems of social interaction to meso (and macro) levels of organization, they connect the symbolic with the material, and the agentic with the structural. Two key analytic principles are identified for empirical research, relationality and duality. These are linked to new research strategies for the study of institutions that draw on network analytic techniques. Two hypotheses are suggested. (1) Institutional resilience is directly correlated to the overall degree of structural linkages that bridge across domains of level, meaning, and agency. (2) Institutional change is related to over-bridging, defined as the sustained juxtaposition of multiple styles within the same institutional site. Case examples are used to test these contentions. Institutional stability is examined in the case of Indian caste systems and American academic science. Institutional change is explored in the case of the rise of the early Christian church and in the origins of rock and roll music.