An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given community — may it be human or a specific animal one. Institutions are identified with a social purpose, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern cooperative living behavior.
The term "institution" is commonly applied to customs and behavior patterns important to a society, as well as to particular formal organizations of government and public services. As structures and mechanisms of social order among certain species, institutions are one of the principal objects of study in the social sciences, such as political science, anthropology, economics, and sociology (the latter being described by Durkheim as the "science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning"). Institutions are also a central concern for law, the formal mechanism for political rule-making and enforcement.
Famous quotes containing the word institution:
“The post-office appeared a singularly domestic institution here. Ever and anon the stage stopped before some low shop or dwelling, and a wheelwright or shoemaker appeared in his shirt- sleeves and leather apron, with spectacles newly donned, holding up Uncle Sams bag, as if it were a slice of home-made cake, for the travelers, while he retailed some piece of gossip to the driver, really as indifferent to the presence of the former as if they were so much baggage.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)
“The institution of the family is decisive in determining not only if a person has the capacity to love another individual but in the larger social sense whether he is capable of loving his fellow men collectively. The whole of society rests on this foundation for stability, understanding and social peace.”
—Daniel Patrick Moynihan (20th century)
“Your organization is not a praying institution. Its a fighting institution. Its an educational institution right along industrial lines. Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!”
—Mother Jones (18301930)