The Importance of Institutions

The Modern Survival Guide #86

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Society, in a nutshell

Institutions Have Power Through Order

The point of an institution is that it creates order from chaos. Order provides certainty, rules, regulations, and standard operating procedures. This gives institutions a trio of ridiculously influential powers: the power to get things done, the power to create “reality,” and the power to survive stupidity.

Limits of Institutions

Naturally, institutions have some limits and weaknesses, and I’ll try to show them in short form here:

  • Change resistance: No institution likes to change — there are usually too many people invested in its status quo operation to make any change an easy exercise.
  • Programmatic behavior: Because institutions often rely on processes and procedures, thinking outside the box or taking creative action is often very difficult.
  • The Iron Law of Institutions: All institutions will act first and foremost to protect themselves in their status quo condition, and only act towards their stated purpose for existence after their survival is assured.
  • Bureaucratic complexity: The longer an institution exists as an organization, the more bureaucratic complexity it is likely to accrue. After a while this will make it inefficient.

Institutions Create Culture

Let’s talk about the output of the institutions box on the Wheel: institutions tend to create the cultures in which we live. I’m using a fairly standard definition of culture here, so this shouldn’t be too shocking:

  • The ceremony will probably be held at a church or a designated venue, or more uncommonly at a home.
  • The family is expected to attend.
  • The bride will probably have bridesmaids; the groom will probably have groomsmen.
  • The married couple or their family is expected to throw a huge, expensive party.
  • The couple will probably have a wedding registry, and if guests don’t get them gifts off the registry, they are expected to give a gift at the wedding.

Searching for truth in a world focused on belief.

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