Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) Erasmus University, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM)
This paper endeavours to contribute to the growing institutionalist literature on the conception of the institution. We draw from John Davis’ (2003) analysis of the individual in posing the questions: what differentiates institutions, and how can changing institutions be identified through time and space? Our analysis develops Searle’s (2005) argument that language is the fundamental institution. Searle’s argument is rather functionalist, however, and does not convey the ambiguity of language. Moreover, language and understanding, surely when related to most institutions in real life, delineate and circumscribe a community. A community cannot function without a common language, as Searle argued, but language also constitutes a community’s boundaries, and excludes unsavoury outsiders or alien topics for discussion. This is how institutions both constrain and enable. By drawing upon Luhmann’s (1995) systems analysis and notions of discourse, communication, and text we aim to augment the existing analytical role ascribed to habit in institutional analysis. Thus, we submit, understanding institutional change and thus durability may progress.