Institutional Analysis

An Organizational Approach
  • William Form


Sociologists sometimes do not agree on the meaning and on the application of their most basic concepts. This clearly applies to social institutions. A science cannot accumulate systematic knowledge when it fails to agree on the meaning and operationalization of its basic concepts. Sociologists often blame this lack of consensus on the comparative youth of the discipline. Yet, we have taught courses on social institutions in American universities for over a century. This surely is enough time to develop consensus on the meaning and application of basic concepts. In trying to confront this problem, this chapter does five things. First, I select four representative experts on social institutions, examine how they define institutions and how they put that definition into practice. Second, I repeat the exercise for authors of some widely used introductory textbooks. Third, I elaborate the inadequacies and blindspots in institutional analysis. Fourth, I propose an operational conception of institutions that can be applied to all of them. Finally, I speculate on the future of institutional analysis.


Social Institution Labor Union Institutional Theory Democratic Party Social Formation 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Form
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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