Work Package 3

Networks of Institutions

The subject of the third Work Package is the study, documentation and mapping of specific and characteristic power networks in the wider Greek area related to public or state institutions, and in some cases to some unofficial institutions. Basically, these are administrative and bureaucratic networks that various institutions develop in order to sustain general infrastructure, support the remote control of a broad spectrum of activities, or organize the distribution of their functions. According to Anthony Giddens, “institutions by definition are the more enduring features of social life.” Whether formal organizations or informal institutional structures the basic characteristic of these complex structures and mechanisms of social activity and collaboration, order and socialization, is that they reproduce themselves. The result is that their explicit or implicit rules of function, their political and economic impact, the attitudes of individuals as specific role-holders within the institution, the hierarchical structures that define these roles, and the collective schemata of ideas, values, know-how and mentalities that emerge from their function, largely determine the society in which they develop. Even more important for the historian is the fact that this impact spreads in time and space further beyond the boundaries within which these institutions operate. An institutional structure interacts in complex and not always apparent ways with other social structures; respectively, an institutional structure that developed from the needs of an era may significantly influence later historical periods, even when it does not tie in with the needs of the new era.

Institutions are a subject of study as networks in more than one sense. First of all, they can be studied as networks through the survey of their tangible aspects in space and time as junctions of a notional network. This survey is not a visual aid to the study of institutions; on the contrary, the spatial distribution of the structural units of an institution and their temporal ramification constitute the prerequisites of their function, enabling a safer insight to their broader influence, and the ways in which they organize historical space and intervene in historical time. Likewise, institutions can be examined as networks on the base of the individuals - role-holders within the institution, or otherwise put, the intersections in the network of the institutional structure. This view broadens the conceptual approach to the role of individuals within an institution, overcoming the vertical, tree-like, hierarchical indexing of roles, to the benefit of a more synthetic view that attempts to trace the complex interactions of individuals within the institutional structure. Despite their autonomous inner logic institutions never operate in a vacuum, they interact with the society within which they operate having direct effects on it. Institutions can be therefore approached as parts of the complex networks that define various social, economic and cultural aspects of historical reality.

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