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The Institutional Matrices of Society

Svetlana G. Kirdina

Institute of Economics,

Russian Academy of Sciences

117218 Russia

Moscow

32, Nahimovskiy prosp.

(7) 095 – 930-6997 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (7) 095 – 930-6997 end_of_the_skype_highlighting (tel.)

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Institutional matrices, social system, concept of society

In the modern global world, individuals, countries, and nations learn increasingly more and more about each other and make comparisons between themselves. It is rather easy to do when we compare visible and evident results of social development – for instance, living standards, ecological situation, economic indicators, etc. It is, however, much more difficult to compare HOW different countries come to certain results, WHAT social mechanisms, procedures, institutions determine the prosperity in some countries, and the crisis in the others. It could be useful to turn to social theories when analyzing such unmanifested mechanisms.

The subject of my presentation is the possibility to use the theory of institutional matrices for a comparative analysis of the evolution and development mechanisms of modern societies.

What is the difference of this theory from other conceptions suggesting their own explanations of social evolution? As you know, two extremes could be singled out in these theories (Scheme 1).

Mainly anthropological conceptions are at one extreme arguing that each country is unique and follows its own way of evolution. For instance, in Russia, there exists a very popular viewpoint about the originality of Russia,[1] its peculiar position between the West and the East and, as a result, its specific way of evolution.

Various kinds of the theory of modernization are at the other extreme of the theoretical set. They argue that there is a single axis of the social evolution of societies, that is from traditional to liberal ones. Particular countries are simply at different stages of this trajectory – which is true for all the countries. From this point of view, Russia is regarded by some academics[2] as a society which has not gone far enough towards liberalization and which preserves a number of traditionalist values in its social life.

In between these extremes, there are theories that single out several types of societies with similar features and directions of social evolution. Civilization approach in cultural studies is an example.[3] From this point of view, Russia is seen (as an example of Orthodox-Christian civilization which follows the tradition of the Byzantine society.

Unlike the conceptions mentioned, the theory of institutional matrices (which is the focus of my presentation) singles out neither one, nor several, or a plurality of ways of the organization of social life, but rather two alternative ways and, correspondingly, two types of social evolution. The distinction between two alternative but mutually complementary types of societies is in line with the general philosophic tradition of dual oppositions dividing the light and the dark, the Yin and the Yang, the woman and the man origin. Thus, there are two types of institutional matrices which have been called the X-matrix and the Y-matrix. They are at the core of the social order of all countries and determine their qualitative differences.

What is an institutional matrix?

Before we proceed, let me make an introductory remark number one. In the theory of institutional matrices, the complex and manifold social life is sketchily reduced to 3 dimensions, three main projections of social life – economy, politics, and ideology (Scheme 2).

And a second introductory remark. Each of these projections, each of spheres of social life is regulated by corresponding basic institutions. Unlike other institutions (for instance, organizations, rules, or procedures), basic institutions are historically stablå social relations which constantly reproduce themselves, ensure the survival and the integrity of a society in its particular material and technological conditions. Basic institutions are historic invariants of social life. For instance, exchange (buying and selling) is a basic institution.

After these introductory remarks, we can give a definition of the institutional matrix. An institutional matrix is a sustainable system of basic institutions which regulates the main spheres of social life: economy, politics, and ideology.

The difference between the X-matrix and the Y-matrix lies in the contents of institutions that form them.

An X-matrix is characterized by the following basic institutions:

- in the economic sphere: redistribution centralized economy institutions (term coined by K. Polanyi’s). Redistribution economies are characterized by a situation when the Center regulates the movement of goods and services, as well as the rights for their production and use;

- in the political sphere: institutions of unitary political order;

- in the ideological sphere: institutions of communitarian ideology, the essence of which is expressed by the idea of dominance of collective, public values over individual ones, a priority of We over I.

An X-matrix is characteristic of Russia, most Asian and Latin American countries and some other.

The following basic institutions belong to an Y-matrix:

- in the economic sphere: institutions of market economy;

- in the political sphere: institutions of federative political order;

- in the ideological sphere: institutions of the ideology of subsidiarity which proclaims the dominance of individual values over values of larger communities, the latter bearing a subsidiary, subordinating character to the personality, i.e. a priority of I over We.

An Y-matrix is characteristic of the public order of most countries of Western Europe and the USA.

What is the methodology of institutional matrices useful for?

1) It allows to lay out the societal nature of a society, its institutional dominant which is determined by the type of the matrix – either X, or Y. For example, Russia and China are characterized by the dominance of the institutions from the X-matrix, whereas the USA and Western Europe are dominated by the institutions from the Y-matrix. It is impossible to change the societal nature of a society. Indeed, the social revolution that Marx had predicted and that would have brought a change from private to public property never actually happened in the countries of Europe. To take another example: neither in Russia, nor in China, individual values have become dominant in the public consciousness in the course of the current transformations. As certain sociological studies reveal[4], communitarian values still dominate here.

2) The methodology of institutional matrices allows to single out basic and complementary institutions in the overall institutional structure of a society. Institutions from a different institutional matrix are complementary ones. For instance, institutions of redistribution (centralized) economy are basic for the economies of Russia and China, and institutions of market economy are complementary ones. On the contrary, market institutions are basic in the economies of the US and the countries of Europe, and institutions of centralized economy are complementary ones. Basic institutions determine the unchangeable societal nature of a society, whereas complementary institutions build the social structure “up to the whole” and are the necessary supplement and prerequisite of the normal functioning of a society.

Before I demonstrate the possibilities of the methodology of institutional matrices, let me give introductory remark 3. In the theory under analysis, a distinction is made between basic institutions and institutional forms in which they are embodied in particular countries and in various historic periods. Basic institutions are stable, whereas institutional forms are mobile, diverse, dynamic. For instance, the institute of exchange can be embodied in the form of a medieval trading deal, or contemporary contract, or transaction in the financial market. These forms are varied; however, their essence remains the same.

So, let’s turn to the application of the methodology of institutional matrices to comparative analysis. Each society is characterized by its unique combination, proportion of basic and complementary institutions from the other matrix type, alternative to them. If we try to assess the spread of institutional forms corresponding to basic and complementary institutions in the structure of each society, we get the institutional profile of the society. An institutional profile is a graphically presented proportion of forms corresponding to basic and complementary institutions. Let’s compare institutional profiles of Russia on the eve of the perestroika, that is before the collapse of the USSR, then at the beginning of the perestroika, and finally at the present moment (Schemes 3, 4, and 5).

First you can see a list of basic institutions operating in the economy, politics, and ideology of the Russian society. A list of complementary institutions alternative to them is on the left side. The diagrams show their proportions. It can be seen that on the eve of the perestroika, basic institutions practically totally dominated in our country. Complementary institutions, the proportion of which was not large, were spread mainly in the shadow, illegal form. Such biases and disproportions of the institutional structure led to the disastrous social consequences – the economic decline and the political collapse of the Soviet system.

The next diagram shows the period of the beginning of the reforms. You can see that complimentary institutions were becoming wide spread. Market and privatization, the development of the federative principles of political order, the borrowing of the values of individualism and freedom resulted in the fact that a new bias, a new disproportion came to the forth. You see that the proportion of the basic institutions, which are to dominate in the institutional structure of the society, sometimes went down the critical point of 50 per cent. Such aggressive politics of the introduction of complementary institutional forms led to the dramatic stratification of the population, the financial crisis of 1998, and the critical state of the national economy.

In the third diagram, you can see the results of politics started with the presidency of our new president Vladimir Putin. The relation of basic institutions to complementary ones is approximately 70 to 30. This means that the dominant position of basic institutions is being recovered, whereas complementary institutions are moving to the necessary institutional niches. It can be seen that the institutional balance is being restored, which suggests the beginning of the social stabilization.

Besides the recovery of the necessary quantitative proportions between basic Énd complementary institutions, a qualitative renovation of institutional forms in which they are being embodied, takes place. For instance, in the Soviet era, the institute of proportionality was realized primarily in the form of a directive plan, whereas today it takes the form of the budget considered and approved by the State Duma, an elected body.

The new concept of the evolutionary institutional modernization is put forward on the basis of the theory of institutional matrices. An evolutionary institutional modernization is a progressive development of institutional forms within the limits set by the type of the institutional matrix of the society. It means such an elaboration and dissemination of the new forms under which the dominant position of the basic institutions and the auxiliary role of the complementary institutions are preserved. Therefore, the vectors of the evolutionary modernization in the countries where institutions from either X or Y-matrices dominate, are different.

That is why, one should take into account the nature of the institutional matrix of the society, when comparing the dynamics of social processes.

Conclusions

The sociological scheme suggested in the theory of institutional matrices can be used for the comparative research of the social development of different countries. According to this theory:

- a society is regarded within the simplified 3-dimensiok¡l co-ordinates, its main projections being economy, politics, and ideology;

- the system of basic institutions regulating relations in the spheres of economy, politics, and ideology, forms the institutional matrix of a society;

- two types of institutional matrices are singled out: the X-matrix and the Y-matrix, which differ in the quality of their basic institutions; they determine the societal nature of the society which is maintained in the course of the historic development;

- the sustainability of the institutional structure of the society is ensured by the dominant position of the basic institutions, which corresponds to the societal nature of the society, and by complementary institutions alternative to them and borrowed from the other institutional matrix; complementary institutions occupy an auxiliary position, and their operation is limited by basic institutions;

- each society in a particular period of time is characterized by a certain institutional profile which demonstrates the proportion of institutional forms embodying basic and complementary institutions;

- when comparing the social development of different countries, their peculiar type of evolutionary institutional modernization depending on what institutional matrix, the X-matrix or the Y-matrix determines the societal nature of the society, needs to be taken into consideration.

 

Basic institutions

of X-matrix

%

0 100

Basic institutions of Y-matrix

Redistribution economy

Market economy

PUBLIC

OWNERSHIP

95

PRIVATE

OWNERSHIP

REDISTRIBUTION

RELATIONS

90

EXCHANGE RELATIONS

SERVICE

LABOR

96

WAGE

LABOR

COORDINATION

88

COMPETITION

PROPORTIONALITY

80

PROFIT

Unitary

political structure

Federative political structure

ADMINISTRATIVE

DIVISION

95

FEDERATION

HIERARCHIAL

VERTICAL

96

SELF-

GOVERNMENT

APPOINTMENTS

98

ELECTIONS

UNANIMITY

90

MULTIPARTY

SYSTEM

APPEALS TO

HIERAR. VERTICAL

95

APPEALS TO

THE COURT

Communitarism

Ideology

Subsidiarity ideology

COLLECTIVISM

93

INDIVIDUALISM

EGALITARISM

90

STRATIFICATION

ORDER

95

FREEDOM

Scheme 3. Institutional profile before the collapse of the USSR (1980s)

Basic institutions

of X-matrix

%

0 100

Basic institutions of Y-matrix

Redistribution economy

Market economy

PUBLIC

OWNERSHIP

47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRIVATE

OWNERSHIP

REDISTRIBUTION

RELATIONS

45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCHANGE RELATIONS

SERVICE

LABOR

51

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WAGE

LABOR

COORDINATION

43

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMPETITION

PROPORTIONALITY

 

 

40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROFIT

Unitary

political structure

Federative political structure

ADMINISTRATIVE

DIVISION

55

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEDERATION

HIERARCHIAL

VERTICAL

 

 

50

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SELF-

GOVERNMENT

APPOINTMENTS

 

 

 

 

40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELECTIONS

UNANIMITY

 

 

 

 

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MULTIPARTY

SYSTEM

APPEALS TO

HIERAR. VERTICAL

 

 

 

 

40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPEALS TO

THE COURT

Communitarism

Ideology

Subsidiarity ideology

COLLECTIVISM

45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INDIVIDUALISM

EGALITARISM

 

 

40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STRATIFICATION

ORDER

43

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREEDOM

Scheme 4. Institutional profile of Russia in the beginning of perestroika (1990s)

Basic institutions

of X-matrix

%

0 100

Basic institutions of Y-matrix

Redistribution economy

Market economy

PUBLIC

OWNERSHIP

 

 

57

 

 

 

 

 

PRIVATE

OWNERSHIP

REDISTRIBUTION

RELATIONS

 

 

60

 

 

 

 

 

EXCHANGE RELATIONS

SERVICE

LABOR

 

 

55

 

 

 

 

 

WAGE

LABOR

COORDINATION

65

 

 

 

 

 

COMPETITION

PROPORTIONALITY

70

 

 

 

 

 

PROFIT

Unitary

political structure

Federative political structure

ADMINISTRATIVE

DIVISION

70

 

 

 

 

 

FEDERATION

HIERARCHIAL

VERTICAL

65

 

 

 

 

 

SELF-

GOVERNMENT

APPOINTMENTS

 

 

60

 

 

 

 

 

ELECTIONS

UNANIMITY

65

 

 

 

 

 

MULTIPARTY

SYSTEM

APPEALS TO

HIERAR. VERTICAL

68

 

 

 

 

 

APPEALS TO

THE COURT

Communitarism

Ideology

Subsidiarity ideology

COLLECTIVISM

65

 

 

 

 

 

INDIVIDUALISM

EGALITARISM

 

 

60

 

 

 

 

 

STRATIFICATION

ORDER

70

 

 

 

 

 

FREEDOM

Scheme 5. Institutional profile of Russia in 2001-2002



[1] See, for instance, Pokrovsky, N. The Inevitability of the Strange World: The Involvement of Russia in the Global Community [Neizbezhnost’ strannogo mira: vkluchenie Rossii v global’noe soobschestvo] // Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology (Russia), 2000, no. 3.

[2] Akhiezer, A. Russia: A Critique of Historical Experience (Socio-cultural Dynamics of Russia) [Rossia: kritika istoricheskogo opyta (Sotsiokulturnaya dinamika Rossii]. Vol. I: From the Past to the Future [Ot proshlogo k buduschemu]. 2nd ed., revised. Novosibirsk: Sibirsky Khronograf, 1997; Lapin, N. Ways of Russia. [Puti Rossii]. Moscow: Institute of Philosophy RAS, 2000.

[3] See, for instance: Hantington, S. A Clash of Civilizations [Stolknovenie tsivilizatsiy] // Political Studies (Polis), 1994, no. 1; Schpengler, O. The Sunset of Europe [Zakat Evropy]. Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1993; Danilevsky, N. Russia and Europe: An Approach to Cultural and Political Attitudes of the Slavic World to the German-Romanic One [Rossia i Evropa. Vzglyad na kulturnye I politicheskie otnoshenia slavyanskogo mira k germano-romanskomu.] SPb: 1869 // Zarya, 1869. no. 5-9; Toynbee, A. A Study of History. Vol. 1-12. L., N.Y., Toronto. 1939-1961.

[4] Yadov, V. Russia as a Transforming Society (A Resume of the Long-Standing Discussions between Sociologists) [Rossia kak transformiruyuscheesya obschestvo (resyume mnogoletnikh diskussiy sotsiologov) // Society and Economy (Obschestvo I ekonomika), 1999. no. 10-11.

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