Theory of Institutions

This project aims at the build-up of a comprehensive, precise and realistic theory of social institutions. Social institutions, like the Bundestag, the city council of Munich, Telecom, Stadtsparkasse München or the garage next door, are the most important factors shaping our social world, but they are poorly understood up to now, and few scientific ressources are devoted to their study.

The dominant scientific view is that institutions are economic systems. The two main economic approaches to the study of institutions are organization theory and game theory. Organization theory investigates institutions which are explicitly structured according to tasks and roles as they are found in the industry. In game theory institutions are modelled as equilibrium points in complex 'games' which means that an institution yields benefit for each of its members.

In our approach institutions are essentially power hierarchies. This is a more realistic view. The economic assumptions are therefore rejected.

An institution is here modelled as a complex and dynamic pattern of power relations which are stabilized by internal representations. The project is to further elaborate, specialize, and apply the theory of institutions. Furthermore the goal is to compare our theory with rival approaches.

Balzer, W. 1990: A Basic Model for Social Institutions, Journal of Mathematical Sociology 16, 1-29.
Balzer, W. 1993. Soziale Institutionen, de Gruyter, Berlin.
Balzer, W. 1992. Kriterien für Entstehung und Wandel sozialer Institutionen. In: Melville, G. (ed.), Institutionen und
, Köln-Weimar-Wien, 73-95.
Balzer, W. 1992. A Model of Power in Small Groups. In: H. Westmeyer (ed.), The Structuralist Program in Psychology,
    Seattle etc., Hogrefe and Huber, 191-210.
Balzer, W. 1992. Game Theory and Power Theory: A Critical Comparison. In: T.Wartenberg (ed.), Rethinking Power,
    Albany, 56-78.
Balzer, W. 1994. Exchange versus Influence: A Case of Idealization. In: B.Hamminga and Marchi (eds.), Idealization
    VI: Idealization in Economics
, Poznan Studies 38, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 189-203.
Balzer, W. 2002. Searle on Social Institutions: A Critique, Dialectica 56, 195-211.
Horster, N. 1997. Principles of Exchange and Power, Peter Lang,Frankfurt/Main.
Sander, J. 1988. Eine strukturalistische Rekonstruktion der Wartenbergschen Machttheorie.

The following subjects are under investigation.

Criteria of Identity: to find structurally precise criteria that allow to determine whether two given
      'time cuts' belong to the same institution or to different ones.

Rotation or Change of the Top Group: to subsume institutions with frequent change of the top
      (like party democracies) under the power model.

Norms: to develop a precise formalism for the incorporation of the build-up and the functioning of
      norms in the models.

Joint Attitudes: to analyze and incorporate joint attitudes into the models, and to describe the role
      they play.

Computer Simulations: to develop programmes for the simulation of the origin and development of
      institutions (see also Munich Simulation Group).

Balzer, W. and Tuomela, R. 2001. Social Institutions, Norms and Practices. In: Conte, R. and Dellarocas, C. (eds.). Social
    Order in Multiagent Systems
, Kluwer, Boston, 161-80.
Balzer, W. and Tuomela, W. 1997. The Structure and Verification of Plan-Based Joint Intentions, International Journal of
    Cooperative Information Systems
6, 3-26.
Balzer, W. and Tuomela, R. 1997. A Fixed Point Approach to Collective Attitudes. In: Holmström-Hintikka, G. and Tuomela,
    R. (eds.).Contemporary Action Theory Vol II, Dordrecht: Kluwer, 115-42.