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