A great deal of human behaviour is not the result of individual preferences. Rather, it is governed by institutional rules, norms and conventions that have powerful material effects on people’s lives. Institutions have been defined as the ‘rules of the game’ in a society. These rules may be written or unwritten, explicit or implicit, codified in law, mandated by policy, sanctified by religion, upheld by convention or embodied in the standards of family, community and society. They play a powerful role in shaping human behaviour, in terms of both what is permitted and what is prohibited. In the economy, they:
influence the gender division of labour between production and reproduction in different parts of the world; and
give rise to distinctive regional patterns in labour force participation and economic activity by women and men.
A great deal of human behaviour is not the result of individual preferences. Rather, it is governed by institutional rules, norms and conventions . . .
While institutions themselves are abstract concepts, they take concrete form in organisations – the ‘teams’ that play the game. There are four key categories of institutions, each with a particular domain (or area of influence) in society and each associated with a different set of organisations and groups. These are states, markets, civil society/community, and kinship/family (see box 3.1).
These institutions govern the processes of production, reproduction and distribution in a society. The way they are set up varies by level of economic development, structure of economy and extent of commodification (i.e. the extent to which a market value has been given to previously non-commercial goods and services). In terms of the productive pyramid shown in Fig. 2.1, there are likely to be differences across the world in the extent both of formal markets and state regulation and of subsistence production.
Box 3.1 Key Categories of Institutions in Society
States: The state is responsible for the overall governance of society. It enforces the rules and procedures that regulate how the different institutional domains interact. Access to state resources, including employment, is through its legislation, policies and regulations. Examples of state organisations include those associated with the bureaucracy, the police, the legislature, the judiciary and local government.
Markets: Markets are organised around a commercial logic – the maximisation of profit – and resources are exchanged on the basis of contract-based entitlements. Market-based organisations include firms, commercial farms, micro-enterprises, trade networks and multinational corporations.
Civil society/community: Civil society refers to a range of associations whose members pursue a variety of interests. The membership and goals are usually ‘chosen’, and members determine how resources and responsibilities will be distributed on the basis of some agreed set of principles. Such organisations include trade unions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and professional associations. Community is used here to refer to associations and groups based on what sociologists call ‘primordial’ ties. Membership of these groups is ascribed rather than chosen. Individuals’ access to their resources depends on how they are positioned in the group by these ascribed identities. Examples of community include caste, tribe and patron-client relationships.
Kinship/family: Kinship and family refer to forms of social organisation, including lineages and clans, that are based on descent, marriage and various forms of adoption or fostering. One of the key organisations associated with kinship and family is ‘the household’, usually based on shared residence and/or shared budgets. Elson calls households the site par excellence of ‘provisioning’, that is, “the activity of supplying people with what they need to thrive, including care and concern as well as material goods”.
Four key categories of institutions in society are: states, markets, civil society/community and kinship/family.
Institutions provide a structure, and hence a degree of stability, to everyday life. They reduce uncertainty, make certain forms of behaviour more predictable and allow individuals to co-operate with others to produce results that they would not be able to achieve on their own. At the same time, however – and whatever their official ideologies – institutions rarely operate in egalitarian ways. Rather, they tend to support hierarchical relationships organised around:
inequalities of ownership or access to the means of production (land, capital, finance, equipment);
achieved or acquired attributes (education, skills, contacts); and
various socially-ascribed attributes (gender, age, caste, etc.).
A variety of explanations and justifications are given for these hierarchies, including merit, capacity, aptitude, biology, nature or divine will. Institutions’ rules of access – and exclusion – also intersect and overlap (see box 3.2).
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women participation in politics lawal shehu
| Oct 8th, 2010
women needs to be involved in political administration of their respective constituencies where information about their problems will be heard and addressed by the appropriate institution not necessarily the government but the voluntary institutions who cares about women.
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