institution (v. lat. institutio = mechanism, education, guidance) is in the sociology one with action rights, obligations to act or normative validity occupied social reality, by the groups and communities inward and outward obligatorily (validly) works or act.

Also an organization under an institution ( S. becomes colloquial. there) understood.

Table of contents

term history

the view of political institutions decreases/goes back at least on Jean Jacques Rousseau. The early political theories saw political institutions finding however only as arenas in those political actions instead of, which were determined however by more fundamental forces. In the comparativeGovernment teachings was concerned one with the institutional basis of the constitutional order, in particular the western world. It concerned thus formal institutions.

Since center of the 1970er years began itself a new Institutionalismus to develop. Here it concerned a reactionto conventional behaviouristischen theory beginnings and to rationally choice beginnings, which are to be regarded to a large extent as institution blind. In the Neo Institutionalismus, in demarcation to the classical Institutionalismus, apart from the formal institutions also non-formal is regarded. As far in detail the term is to be seized institution,remains contentious. Economiceconomics inspired scientists define the term more closely, than sociologically inspired scientists, who understand also cognitive rules of human acting as institution.

As the smallest common denominator it can be considered that an institution is a monitoring system that a certain social order causes.

demarcation to the organization term

the term in the political economy for the explanation of the education by enterprises and enterprise borders is used - often from discontent with that (and in the management economics ) unfolded multiple there organization term.

Brockhausdefines the institution as a “social, state or church institution, in which certain tasks, usually in legally regulated form, are noticed.“(Of Brockhaus encyclopedia Bd. 10 1989, S. 544)

The recent sociology avoided it gladly, complex circumstances such as family to call or Bundestag “institution”, since they cover both aspects of the institution and the organization and organization-sociologically fewer basic problems to raise seem. ( The institution of the marriage is in such a manner taken an organization, their members the respective wife and the respectiveMarried man are.) however has e.g. 2003 Michael Wildt “institution” - the term again fruitfully taken up, in order to explain the Central Reich Security Office in the time of the national socialism.


of examples of institutions are any rules and standards, condition, trust right, Criminal law, contracts (general), StVO, DIN - /ISO standard, enterprise guiding principles, national language, behaviour rules, customs and customs.

To the sociological debate to the ritual, often concerned with parallel social processes , is to be referred.

The sociologist refuge Reimann saw as substantial Untescheidungskriteriumon that institutions aim at changes of behavior the human behavior, in particular. Therefore e.g. is. the marriage an institution, any business enterprise not. The church however is institution and has as such also a complex organization.


Institutions lead an acting of humans, limit the arbitrariness ( the cure will) of individual acting, define the common action framework and with it connected obligations. To this rule set associated legitimacy strategies and sanction mechanisms develop. Thus institutions practice an exculpatory functionout, by guaranteeing a collectively organized need satisfaction and setting the particular free of elementary full courses. On the other hand they protect the society against individually arbitrary and chaotically against each other current actions and transfer them into socially probably-arranged operational sequence.

After the philosophical Anthropologen Gehlenreplace institutions to humans, which the animal as instinct is available; Dieter Claessens criticized and differentiated this biosociologically (concept „of the instinct stumps “). They are necessarily obscure and alienated after Gehlen, offer however thereby the possibility for a “higher” liberty of theActing.

Institutions regulate elementary ranges for the individual and the society how: Reproduction, (family, relationship), upbringing, education and training, food procurement, goods production and distribution (economics) and the maintenance of a social order (right, Politics), as well as the culture (see to Bernhard Schäfers 1995 S. 134-137). They are “proven problem solutions” for the everyday life - which one as complex of action and relations samples to introduce itself can. Institutions can find their image in organizations, are to differentiate but of it clearly. While institutions make action-leading rules available, organizations define formally goals, membership and expirations of organization.

Important it is here that institutions must be considered, in order to unfold their effect.


institutions become frequently ina hierarchical order after the degree of the restriction brought by organization free spaces. The further down the level is the more specific, the associated institution.

The first level represents here the social anchorage. In this level in particular informal institutions are such as tradition, World view and culture of importance. The institutions of this level develop only very slowly over an evolutionary change. The theoretical basis is given by the sociology.

The second level is represented by fundamental formal rules, about a condition and Rules of the right. The theoretical basis is given by the theory of the rights of disposal.

The third level is the control and incentive system. Basis are private contracts. The theoretical basis is given by the Transaktionskostenökonomik.

The fourth level concerns finally those Resource allocation. The theoretical basis is given by the principle aluminum agent theory.

risks and chances by institutions

total institutions such as prisons, psychiatric institutes, crews, monasteries or boardings school control all life expressions of their members, can thus the free space of the individuallimit extremely strongly and social developments prevent.

On the other side processes of the Deinstitutionalisierung save, z. B. in social transformation phases, risks of the relapse into risky, inconsiderate and only behavior mindful on penetration of the self-desires.

See also: Institution confidence

work on []


effect over incentives, here in particular contentwise defaults and sanctions unfold damage mechanism institutions.

In this way can be affected expectations , decisions and actions of the individuals. In the long run this influence on collective, thus overall economic has, results.


  • Hartmut Esser, sociology. Special one Grundlagen'#. Volume 5: Institutions. Frankfurt A. M. New York: Campus 2000
  • Arnold Gehlen, humans, Wiesbaden: UTB 1995
  • Arnold Gehlen, over the birth of the liberty from the alienation, total expenditureBd. 4, Frankfurt A. M. 1983
  • Erving Goffman, asylums, Frankfurt A. M.: Suhrkamp 1972 (to total institutions)
  • Bernhard Schäfers (Hrsg.), fundamental ideas of the sociology. Opladen: Leske + Budrich, 4.Auflage 1995
  • o.V.: Of Brockhaus encyclopedia Bd. 10, 1989, S. 544

see also


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