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

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  • Wilfred Dolfsma
  • John Finch
  • Robert McMaster

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Wilfred Dolfsma & John Finch & Robert McMaster, 2011. "Identifying Institutional Vulnerability: The Importance of Language, and System Boundaries," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(4), pages 805-818.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:45:y:2011:i:4:p:805-818
    DOI: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624450403
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    Cited by:

    1. Deirdre Shaw & Robert McMaster & Terry Newholm, 2016. "Care and Commitment in Ethical Consumption: An Exploration of the ‘Attitude–Behaviour Gap’," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 136(2), pages 251-265, June.
    2. Welter, Friederike & Smallbone, David, 2015. "Creative forces for entrepreneurship: The role of institutional change agents," Working Papers 01/15, Institut für Mittelstandsforschung (IfM) Bonn.

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