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Institution. History of a notion and its uses in history before institutionalism


  • Alain GUERy



Institutionalism uses the notion of institution according to large and static definitions of the modem authors. Until the semantic revolution of the eighteenth century, institution is, on the contrary, a rare word, used in restricly and dynamic meaning. In early modem societies, status and privilege rule social condition whereas custom rules morals and believes. But status, privileges and custom are neither lived nor thought as institutions. A complicated system of representations rules the monarchy's life, according to a divine order's reference, consequently inferior. The first uses of the notion of institution, which are not theological uses, appear in the works of thinkers who want to explicate the development, in the same time, of absolutism and the State, during the seventeenth an eighteenth centuries. Those new uses are at the origin of the autonomy of politic and economic as new categories of thought, in the first case because the institutions can rule the power, in the second because they are hindrances to free trade. After the French Revolution, the building of a new stability on the bases of new institutions open the door wide for large definitions of what has been a historical experience.

Suggested Citation

  • Alain GUERy, 2003. "Institution. History of a notion and its uses in history before institutionalism," Cahiers d’économie politique / Papers in Political Economy, L'Harmattan, issue 44, pages 7-18.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpo:journl:y:2003:i:44:p:7-18

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    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • B15 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B25 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Austrian; Stockholm School
    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law


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