Tuesday, 13 April 2010

"Permanentised Institutions"

The following excellent comment was made by Ian B on this post on Britain's NHS by Nick M at Counting Cats in Zanzibar:
"Part of the process that occurred in the nineteenth century- the “cultural revolution” was the development of the idea that some things are “institutions”. Institutiions are seen as part of some kind of bedrock of society, such that people can’t imagine life without them. If your organisation wants to become permanentised, you need to gain ideological “institutional” status. This was applied to all kinds of things. People see big businesses as institutions, too, which distracts them from the idea that in free markets, businesses can and should fail. Banks are institutions, for instance.

Once something becomes perceived as an institution, it becomes effectively unassailable. People say, “If the institution were not there, then the things it does would not be done”. Very few people for instance question the university system- which is institutional. It is presumed to be the only way that people can acquire advanced education. Anyone suggesting that going to Oxford isn’t the only conceivable way a person might learn the History Of Art is automatically some kind of phillistine.

Most people accept anything institutional as part of the essential fabric of life. The NHS, the BBC, the law guild, the medical guilds, the charities, etc etc. It’s a very signficant thought shaping system, defining the conceptual world of people to an enormous degree, and was an essential construct of the “Victorian Settlement” in which we live."

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