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INSTITUTIONALIZATION AS REMEDY FOR THE ‘DOROTHY COMPLEX’?. Didem Buhari- Gulmez (PhD, University of London). ‘Dorothy complex’. “We construct worlds we know in a world we don’t.” (Onuf 1989: 94)

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institutionalization as remedy for the dorothy complex


Didem Buhari-Gulmez

(PhD, University of London)

dorothy complex
‘Dorothy complex’
  • “We construct worlds we know in a world we don’t.” (Onuf 1989: 94)

“…that they [constructivists] believe in the Dorothy principle—that extant reality, as in the Land of Oz, can be changed by closing one’s eyes and wishing hard.”

(Ruggie 1998: 33)


- a ‘utopian’ theory

- If something is everything, then it is nothing!

constructivist challenge
Constructivist challenge
  • Only make sense in a social context that provides shared notions of what is possible or impossible, right or wrong, correct or not.
  • Not only ‘good norms’
  • No predetermined identity/ no fixed interests

(e.g. Guzzini, Hopf, Katzenstein)

world polity institutionalism
World Polity Institutionalism
  • Complex interaction between global, national, and sectoral factors often reinforces isomorphism and decoupling.

(Meyer, Drori and Hwang 2006)

on actorhood
On Actorhood
  • Raw actor: insulated/non-recognized/
  • Legitimated actor : embedded in a broader social structure which constructs its identity through institutionalized scripts
  • Disinterested actor: advisor/cultural authority

(Meyer & Jepperson 2000)

  • “Institutions are standardized activity sequences that have taken-for-granted rationales, that is, in sociological parlance, some common social ‘account’ of their existence and purpose.”

(Jepperson 1991:147)

  • Power and resources
  • Fear of sanctions
  • Promise of efficiency
  • Promise of legitimacy
  • Mimetic processes and Theorization
  • Disinterested actors &professional peer-pressures
  • “less is more”
  • “heuristic is a strategy that ignores part of the information, with the goal of making decisions more quickly, frugally, and/or accurately than more complex methods.”

(Gigerenzer and Gaissmaier 2011:454)

cognitive short cuts
Cognitive short cuts
  • Consider two survey respondents asked ‘do you favour President Bush’s policy of bombing Iraq?’ The first is a strongly partisan Republican, the second a committed pacifist. Neither needs to know anything at all about Iraq, and both can make a decision very simply: the first can answer ‘yes’ along partisan lines; the second ‘no’ along ethical lines. Both respondents have found a simple short cut to judgement that obviates the need for fuller information. Such short cuts are known as heuristics (following Kahneman et al. 1982; Simon 1982).
  • Johns (2009:575)
types of heuristic decision making
Types of heuristic decision-making
  • Deduction: forming opinions based on abstract principles (such as pacifism).
  • Delegation: embracing the choice of ‘someone else’ such as political parties, interest groups, newspapers, friends and neighbours, or
  • ‘Wisdom of crowds’
institutional impact 1
Institutional impact -1
  • Default heuristic: “if there is a default, do nothing about it”.
  • Explicit-consent vs. Presumed-consent society

opt in opt-out

12% German donors --- 99% French donors

(Gigerenzer and Gaissmaier 2011: 454)

social sciences citation index
Social Sciences Citation Index
  • “Those who decide which journals are to be included in the SSCI exercise an enormous influence over the social sciences.”
  • “one perceives an attitude that Citation is of a divine and immaculate nature.”

(Klein and Chiang 2004: 137)

institutional impact 2
Institutional impact -2
  • Global standards & legitimacy

[T]he question ‘Who legitimates?’ is largely answered by pointing to a variety of nestling, cross-cutting and overlapping communities (including the nascent global one) rather than to aggregates of individuals making deliberated choices as free-standing agents.

(Etzioni 2011: 106)

global moral dialogues
‘Global moral dialogues’
  • The opening up of many societies (especially former communist societies), the spread of education, the widening of people’s attention horizon from the local toward the national and even global public affairs, the rise of worldwide TV networks (the ‘CNN effect’), increased travel and immigration, and the world wide web—all have led to the development of transnational moral dialogues in general and dialogues about that which is considered legitimate in particular. These dialogues are global not in the sense that all citizens participate, let alone agree, but that these dialogues reach across most borders.

(Etzioni 2011: 108)

complexity of institutional environment
Complexity of institutional environment
  • Decoupled
  • Diffuse authority
  • No fixed content
local global dialectical relationship
Local-Global: Dialectical relationship:
  • Global and Local are mutually constitutive.
  • World polity empowers local communities in light of the standardized themes of glocalization (Meyer et al. 2006: 267-268).
  • World polity simultaneously generates both homogenization and legitimation of certain forms of difference (Boli and Petrova 2007: 120).
core periphery positioning
Core-periphery positioning
  • …the fragmented and often conflictual nature of the larger cultural terrain frequently creates gaps in which actors can select among pre-existing (but not necessarily consistent) logics (Suchman 1995: 589).
  • ‘particular institutions affect particular groups in different but predictable ways’ (Boyle 2002: 7).

e.g. State-affiliated actors vs. civil society

  • Newly founded states more vulnerable to institutional pressures
  • Core states more able to resist institutional pressures but are also more exposed to institutional pressures
  • Before/After 1945 : rise of the UN and INGOs
  • Industrialization, Protestantism and colonial linkages to Western elites fail to explain the worldwide adoption of geological institutions in the post-1945 era. (Schofer 2003)
  • The role of domestic factors (affluence, degradation, public opinion, media coverage) recedes from causal salience over many cases and over the whole century. (Frank, Hironaka and Schofer 2000:111)
  • A well-established global institution

-formal compliance # implementation

-no formal compliance # non-implementation

  • ‘Paradox of empty promises’

(Hafner-Burton and Tsutsui 2005:1378)

degrees of institutionalization and domestic perceptions
Degrees of institutionalization and domestic perceptions?

Ombudsmanship is a globally endorsed institution.

Turkey’s Cyprus policy:

‘EU’s conditional pressures on Turkey are one-sided and the main platform for negotiation on Cyprus conflict is the United Nations.’

Foreign land ownership:

‘Need to observe both reciprocity (sovereignty) and human rights.’


Frank, David J., Ann Hironaka, and Evan Schofer. (2000) ‘The Nation-State and the Natural Environment over the Twentieth Century’, American Sociological Review, 65(1): 96–116.

Hafner-Burton, Emilie, and KiyoteruTsutsui (2005) “Human rights in a Globalizing World: The Paradox of Empty Promises”, American Journal of Sociology 110(5):1373–1411.

Jepperson, Ronald. (1991) Institutions, Institutional Effects, and Institutionalism. In The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis, ed. Walter Powell and Paul DiMaggio. pp. 143-163.

Meyer, John W., and Ronald Jepperson. (2000) The ‘Actors’ of Modern Society: The Cultural Construction of Social Agency. Sociological Theory 18: 100–120.

Meyer, John W., Gili S. Drori, and Hokyu Hwang (2006) “Conclusion.” In Globalization and Organization: World Society and Organizational Change. Edited by Gili S. Drori, John W. Meyer, and Hokyu Hwang, 258-274. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Onuf, Nicholas G. (1989) World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Ruggie, John Gerard (1998) Constructing the World Polity: Essays on International Institutionalization, London: Routledge.

Schofer, Evan (2003) ‘The Global Institutionalization of Geological Science, 1800–1990’, American Sociological Review, 68(5): 730–759.

Suchman, Mark C. (1995) Managing Legitimacy: Strategic and Institutional Approaches. Academy of Management Review 20(3):571–610.