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Identifying Institutional Vulnerability: The Importance of Language, and System Boundaries

  • Wilfred Dolfsma
  • John Finch
  • Robert McMaster

Taking the idea that institutional reproduction is not obvious and that institutions are vulnerable has significant conceptual implications. Institutional vulnerability can arise through communication between actors in a common language. To apprehend this requires an elaboration of John Searle's (1995, 2005) argument that language is the fundamental institution. Ontologically, language delineates and circumscribes a community. A community cannot function without a common language, and language at the same time constitutes a community's boundaries, allowing for focused and effective communication within a community. Communication through language introduces ambiguity as well, however, and so institutional reproduction, mediated by language, is a deeply contentious process. Communication across boundaries may particularly "irritate" a system, as Niklas Luhmann has argued. How can institutions then be re-identified through change? Searle's general form for institutions is in need of elaboration. We develop arguments by drawing upon Luhmann's (1995) systems analysis and notion of communication.

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Article provided by M.E. Sharpe, Inc. in its journal Journal of Economic Issues.

Volume (Year): 45 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 805-818

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Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:45:y:2011:i:4:p:805-818
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