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Institutionalisation refers to the process of embedding some conception (for example a belief, norm, social role, particular value or mode of behavior) within an organization, social system, or society as a whole. The term may also be used to refer to committing a particular individual or group to an institution, such as a mental or welfare institution.


  • Historically, most societies have been heavily skewed in favor of the power pole, and most of history— especially modern history— can be seen as a struggle toward the authority pole, that is, toward the institutionalization of a process of informed, consensual self-determination of the whole, which we call "democracy".
    • Walter F. Buckley (1998). Society: A Complex Adaptive System--Essays in Social Theory. p. 186.
  • Because of the institutionalization of socially dominant interests, major innovations in the city’s role, meaning and structure tend to be the outcome of grassroots (people’s) mobilization and demands. When these mobilizations result in the transformation of the urban structure, we call them social movements
    • Manuel Castells (1983) The City and the Grassroots: A Cross-cultural Theory of Urban Social Movements. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 291
  • Theory and research on institutionalization have generated valuable insights into the processes that define and explain institutionalization in organizational environments and their influence on organizational conformity to the environment. Early versions of institutional theory placed particular emphasis on the taken-for-granted character of institutional rules, myths, and beliefs as shared social reality and on the processes by which organizations tend to become instilled with value and social meaning (Berger & Luckmann, 1967; Selznick, 1949, 1957). More recent treatments of institutionalization have elaborated the nature and variety of these institutional processes (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983; Meyer & Rowan, 1977; Zucker, 1977, 1988) and the range of influences that these processes exert on structural characteristics of organizations (Meyer, Scott, & Deal, 1983; Meyer, Scott, & Strung, 1987; Scott, 1987a; Scott & Meyer, 1987; Singh, Tucker, & House, 1986) and organizational change (Hinings & Greenwood, 1988; Tolbert & Zucker, 1983). Notably lacking from this literature, however, is explicit attention to the strategic behaviors that organizations employ in direct response to the institutional processes that affect them.
    • Christine Oliver, "Strategic responses to institutional processes." Academy of management review 16.1 (1991): 145-179.
  • In sharp contrast to the modus operandi of swarm dynamics, political bodies are ill-equipped to protect the integrity of their components and lack the collective wisdom for synchronization. Instead, highly layered command-based systems invade, institutionalize, and indoctrinate society with centralized directives, straitjacket bureaucracies, and self-serving officialdom. These systems hungrily feast on what others have created, cannibalizing other people’s resources like a tribe of pragmatic headhunters.
    • L.K. Samuels, In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action, Cobden Press, (2013) p. 35
  • Whereas some consequences of our actions occur as planned, others are unanticipated; social actions are not context-free but are constrained, and their outcomes are shaped by the setting in which they occur. Especially significant are the constraints on action that arise from commitments enforced by institutionalization. Because organizations are social systems, goals and procedures tend to achieve an established, value impregnated status. We say that they become institutionalized.
    • Philip Selznick (1949). TVA and the grass roots : a study in the sociology of formal organization, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. pp. 256-257

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