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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) A 20th-century bourgeois trend in the study of the state and law. In the opinion of institutionalism, the basis for analyzing problems in society, state, and law is the “institution,” by which is understood any stable association of persons for the achievement of a particular aim, for example, a family, party, trust, church, trade union, or state. Institutionalism opposes both the bourgeois individualist approach to these problems and the Marxist theory of classes and the role of classes in social development.

From the institutionalist point of view, the state, although important, is only one of many institutions embodying political power. Thus, institutionalism totally rejects the concept of state sovereignty. In its view, law established by the state is only one of many types of law, since every institution has its own laws and regulations. This approach obliterated the real essence of the capitalist state as the chief instrument of the political power of the bourgeoisie, whose role constantly increases under state monopoly capitalism. Institutionalism reflects the increasing complexity of the political structure in bourgeois society in the 20th century, for example the increased role of political parties, joint-stock associations, and labor unions and the increasing activism of the churches, but the conclusion drawn by the insti-tutionalists, that political power in 20th-century bourgeois society is an expression of the combined activity of all the various strata and groups in society, is scientifically insupportable.

After World War II certain bourgeois-reformist theories on the “diffusion of power” and “pluralistic democracy” were advanced on the basis of the ideas of institutionalism. The most prominent theorists of institutionalism are M. Huriou, G. Renard, and G. Gurvitch (France) and S. Romano (Italy) and, after World War II, G. Burdeau (France) and J. Strachey and S. Finer (Great Britain).


(2) Several distorted and oversimplified tendencies in American bourgeois political economy in the 20th century. The appearance of institutionalism in bourgeois political economy was prompted by the changing ideological and practical needs of the bourgeoisie as a class at a time when capitalism was making the transition from free competition to the monopoly stage. The institutionalists, with the aim of justifying and defending the capitalist order, substituted an apologetic description of the interrelations between institutions for the analysis of the objective laws of the capitalist mode of production. At the same time the works of some of the institutionalists, such as T. Veblen, W. Hamilton, J. Commons, and W. Mitchell, contained significant factual material on the history of the capitalist economy, especially on the history of economic cycles and crises, as well as criticism of the way in which certain capitalist contradictions manifest themselves (above all in the work of Veblen), a criticism usually expressed, however, from a petit bourgeois point of view.

There is no unified economic theory in institutionalism; it tends to fall into one of three categories. The first, the psychobio-logical, was represented by Veblen. The natural laws related to the survival of the fittest and natural selection were adapted to explain social and economic processes under capitalism, which were viewed as expressions of the “irrational psychology” of various social groups battling for survival. The second, the social tendency, was headed by Commons. Legal relations are regarded here as the decisive social and economic relations under capitalism. This approach permits the institutionalists to dispense with the actual exploitative nature of the capitalist mode of production and to depict the relations between labor and capital as those between juridical equals. The third, the empirical tendency, was represented by Mitchell and dealt primarily with the problems of economic cycles and crises. The adherents of this viewpoint tried to show that the capitalist economy could develop without crises and thus ignored the inevitability of recurring crises as a specific manifestation of the fundamental contradiction in the capitalist mode of production.

Institutionalism was one of the first currents in bourgeois political economy to describe and justify state-monopoly capitalism, which was called administrative capitalism.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Others have added to the institutionalist view by writing about the public finance system in the Netherlands, the establishment of firm property rights, the joint-stock company, the bourse, public investments and improvements, loans, and credit instruments (Gelderblom 2009).
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The then-dominant institutionalist school questioned the realism of marginal cost pricing.
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This especially applies to institutional theory since Kuhn seems to have articulated many of his ideas as an institutionalist, as I shall argue in this paper.
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