Identifying institutional vulnerability: The importance of language, and system boundaries

Wilfred Dolfsma*, John Finch, Robert McMaster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-818
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Economic Issues
Volume45
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Vulnerability
Language
System boundary
Communication
Elaboration
Systems analysis
Niklas Luhmann

Keywords

  • communication
  • institutions
  • language
  • reproduction
  • vulnerability

Cite this

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Identifying institutional vulnerability: The importance of language, and system boundaries. / Dolfsma, Wilfred; Finch, John; McMaster, Robert.

In: Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 45, No. 4, 01.12.2011, p. 805-818.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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AU - McMaster, Robert

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