Theoretical description of institutions as social phenomena requires that their adequate model be constructed. However, the concept of “social institution” has no universally accepted definition. The article discusses the phenomenon of social institution and analyzes its definitions. Researchers consider social institution from several points of view, but the existing definitions do not reflect all the features of social institutions.
It has been recently acknowledged that institutions need to be developed slowly, and radical changes in social institutions often cause serious deterioration in their functioning. The theoretical model of social institution should explain the reasons for this stability. A good model should also explain other properties of social institutions, for example, their system and structural features.
The paper proposes the model of institution as an open social system with blurred boundaries and an uncertain number of participants. At the macro level, institutions as social systems have a normative, ideal and organizational structure. The elements and the bearers of properties of such a system at the micro level are represented by people with their worldview, ideas, values, behavior standards and thought patterns, their specific recurring social actions and mutual expectations.
Such a model explains the persistence of institutions: an abrupt change in the rules and regulations cannot result in equally rapid change in worldview, ideas, values, behavior standards, cognitive patterns, and mutual expectations of social actors. Instead, a radical change in the “rules of the game” causes great stress that affects the actor’s personal qualities.
The model opens up new opportunities for forecasting the results of social institutions reforms. The reforms will be successful when it does not require too great a change in behavior standards, thinking patterns, values and ideas of the majority of the subjects that make up the system. Otherwise, it will lead to a deterioration in the functioning of institutions.
The author of the article gives her own definition of social institution on the basis of the proposed theoretical model
social institution, definition of institution, social system, system approach, social actor, structure of the social system