Unpacking Social Mechanisms. Comparing Social Constructivism and Organization Theory Perspectives

What lines could be drawn between constructivism and institutionalism with regards to subject matter and theoretical assumptions? This paper presents an unusual synthesis; empirics are drawn from national officials in EU committees, with focus on role conceptions and decision-making behaviour.

ARENA Working Paper 31/1999 (html)

Jarle Trondal

Whereas a constructivist turn has occurred in recent international relations theory, an institutionalist turn has occurred in organization theories of the 1980's and 1990's. Social constructivism and organization theory exhibit important similarities as regards the basic underlying social mechanisms paid heed to. Consequently, one rationale for comparing these two strands of arguments rests on the observation that (i) they address the same dependent variables - i.e. decision behaviour, identity formation and role conceptions, and (ii) that some of the underlying mechanisms explaining these variables are nearly identical. Regarding the dependent variables, this article discusses the construction of identities, role conceptions and decision behaviours amongst central government officials. Moreover, the frame of reference for the current discussion is government officials from domestic central administrative institutions participating within committees and working groups within the European Union. This frame is chosen because officials who participate in several polities simultaneously are assumed to be challenged as regards their identifications, role conceptions and modes of acting.

Tags: methodological issues, expert committees, institutionalism, identity, role conceptions
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM