Conventions and Institutions (an English translation of one of my books published in French) is my først e-book published with Apple iBooks Author.
The ambition of this essay in social theory is not to analyze given social phenomena, but to forge the tools allowing such an analysis. If certain social phenomena are discussed they have been chosen more for heuristic and illustrative reasons than for the sake of the phenomena. The development pursues a threefold aim. It aims first at anchoring the approach in terms of convention in a theory of social action that allows linking individual action and social structures, avoiding the shortcomings of the over-socialized and the under-socialized conceptions of social action. Secondly, it demonstrates the relevance of the analysis in terms of convention not only for dealing with coordination problems, but also in relation with broader issues such as social change, power and domination, social differentiation and social justice. Finally, it consists of conceiving the articulation between the level of conventions and that of institutions , i.e. to examine the question of the micro-macro link as well as the link between the elementary and the complex.
In order to achieve these objectives the first part of the essay is devoted to the agency-structure problem. First, a theoretical conception of social action is put forward around the notion of convention. The question of the emergence of conventions as a result of individual interactions is then examined through the case of the emergence of a convention of cooperation in a situation of social dilemma. Finally, the fruitfulness of the approach in terms of convention in analyzing social change is illustrated through a discussion of the process of individualization.
The second part of the essay analyzes the “pure” types of convention, addressing successively the conventions of coordination, of allocation and justice and of social differentiation. How the relations of power and domination may be analyzed in terms of convention are also discussed.
The last part is concerned with the examination of the relationships between conventions and more complex institutional arrangements. The central idea is that institutions incorporate and stabilize conventions, and from this perspective may be thought of as metaconventions or paradigms which, like conventions, are structuring and structured. At the institutional level a distinction has to be made between institutional forms that are also organizations and that consequently have a formal structure, and institutional regimes that are complex arrangements involving institutional forms and conventions and which play a regulative function. The discussion of institutional forms is based on the comparative analysis of for profit, nonprofit and publicly owned organizations whereas that of institutional regimes is illustrated by the analysis of governance regimes.
Link to the book
(Also freely available for iPad on iBookstore)