Institutional Change through Rational Collective Action

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 304
Oral Presentation
Roar HAGEN , Department of Sociology, Political Science and Community Planning, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsoe, Norway
Truls Tunby KRISTIANSEN , Department of Sociology, Political Science and Community Planning, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Norway
The paper seeks to establish an analytical framework for the study of institutional change. Its main components are drawn from sociological systems theory, rational choice and institutional theory. The  distinctive theoretical maneuver is assuming that modern, functionally differentiated societies can be analyzed as communities, more or less capable of collective action.

The analytical core of the framework is a concept of collective action characterized by the conflict between collective and individual rational lines of action. This subjectively experienced conflict is also a social dilemma because the outcome of an action is codetermined by the choices of other actors. Mutual interdependence creates a particular social dynamic that can be applied to the study of institutional change.  

We take modern society to consist of several self-referential social systems that operate through unique social media and binary codes. However, we also conceive of modern society in a second sense, as a kind of reflection of society in the first sense, and which regulate or condition the operations of subsystems. A modern society like the Norwegian has developed a vast number of organizations that deal with different aspects of its function systems. To an extent these belong to the political system and are the administrative means to put political decisions into effect. However, to become collectively binding, both political decision-making and its instruments must be anchored in society through rational collective action.   

A set of concepts, e.g. function problems, rational solidarity, collective power and collective recognition, are introduced to explain how collective action might become a rational choice that transforms societal institutionsInstead of asking what a collective (really) is we believe sociology should create ontologies of the social that enable conceptual solutions to problems encountered in the empirical research.