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Introducing Institutionality

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Institutionality

Abstract

In this introduction we outline theoretical and methodological approaches to discursive and material dimensions of institutional practices and propose that they are consequential in terms of the (re-)ordering of meaning and power relations in society. We introduce institutionality as a perspective that allows us to explore how institutions are defined, represented and become relevant and powerful in the public sphere. We argue for the importance of this perspective by firstly noting the omnipresence of institutions in social and cultural life and the many ways they matter to people. Secondly, we define institutionality as the practices that bring into being, characterise, enact, transform and resist institutions and outline how they enable and constrain peoples’ lives, and order discursive and material meanings. We suggest that empirical analyses of the social, embodied, symbolic and material modalities of institutionality and of processes of the making and unmaking of institutions, i.e. their (re-/de-)institutionalisation, reveal that institutions are both powerful and fragile. Thirdly, we propose that institutionality can be thought of as a confluence of several interrelated tensions regarding an institution’s ontology—specifically its continuity, scope and power relations. Fourthly, we situate institutionality in the context of research on institutions, briefly introduce the 20 chapters we have collected in this volume, and point out how each of them engages institutionality. The volume is structured in five parts: I. Workplace Interaction, II. Bodies, Architecture and Space, III. Mass Media Representations, IV. Organisational Publicity, V. Legitimising Knowledge and Power. In the conclusion, we discuss how contributions to this volume advance our understanding of institutionality.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Different kinds of order have been studied in connection to the terms ‘institution’ and ‘organisation’. In an effort to avoid confusing institutions with organisations, much research decides to focus on only one of these terms, for instance in a phenomenological inquiry of institutions as a philosophical concern (e.g. Rehberg 2014) or an analysis of structures, functions or practices in organisations or workplaces (e.g. Fairhurst and Putnam 2004). Despite a long dispute on the difference between these key terms there seems to be some agreement that organisations are formal cooperations between people for defined purposes with rules about membership, hierarchies and administration (e.g. Hodgson 2006: 9; Rehberg 2014: 156–157). Rehberg (2014) explains that not all institutional constellations employ formal organisation, even if practices carried out in these constellations are organised in other ways or make use of formal organisations (e.g. pen friendships or romantic relationships constitute highly symbolic, normative and collectively shared practices that employ institutionalised genres of communication and organisational infrastructures). Institutionalised practices may lead to the foundation of formal organisations such as in the case of statutory pen friendship associations, but they do not need to do so. However, looking at the matter from the other way round, all organisations rely on some symbolic, institutionalised representation of their aims and statutes (see also Weber 1972 [1972]: 548).

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Correspondence to Yannik Porsché .

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Porsché, Y., Scholz, R., Singh, J.N. (2022). Introducing Institutionality. In: Porsché, Y., Scholz, R., Singh, J.N. (eds) Institutionality. Postdisciplinary Studies in Discourse. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-96969-1_1

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