Institutions emerge mostly as unplanned products of social living. People search for practical ways of meeting their needs. In their attempts they find some workable patterns which become standardized in course of time through constant repetition. As time passes they acquire a body of supporting sanctions.
People tend to orient their behaviour in accordance with these standardized practices. They may also define and redefine these practices in tune with the changes that take place in their environment. This is how institutions normally arise.
‘Institutionalization’ consists of the establishment of definite norms which assign status positions and role functions in connection with such behaviour. A norm is a group expectation of behaviour.
Institutionalization involves replacement of spontaneous or experimental behaviour with behaviour which is expected, patterned, regular, and predictable “—Horton and Hunt.
Social norms are ever operative in society. But these operative norms differ from one social system to another. For example, Muslim societies permit polygyny, but the Hindu and Christian Societies have not permitted it.
Hindus have tabooed beef-eating, Muslims the pork-eating, but both are permitted in the Christian society. As H.M. Johnson has pointed out, a social norm can be said to be institutionalized in a particular social system when the following three conditions are met:-
(i) When a large number of the members of the social system accept the norm.
(ii) When the norm is taken seriously and internalised by a sizeable number of people who accept it.
(iii) When the norm is sanctioned, that is, when certain members of the system are expected to be guided by the norm in appropriate circumstances.
Dating in America has been institutionalized. Most of the Americans have accepted it as a necessary and proper activity through which young people mature emotionally and eventually find agreeable partners. In the same way, a few societies have institutionalized premarital sexual intercourse, making it a normal and expected part of the activities leading to marriage.
Though this practice has not become institutionalized in America the present trends there, for example, providing contraceptives to the unmarried, and allowing them to have all-night visitations, etc., reveal that it may become institutionalized very shortly providing for an accepted and safeguarded pattern of behaviour. But in the traditional Hindu society both the practices of dating and premarital sexual intercourse are abhorred.
Other Aspects of Institutionalization:
1. Institutionalized norms apply to members of the social system according to their social positions within the system. For example, in family, father, mother, son, daughter all are bound by some family norms which do not apply equally to all.
The rights and obligations of the mother are different from those of the mother and children and they are not the same between parents and children. Still all the members know and support the entire normative pattern of the family because it has become a part of their common culture.
2. The internalisation of a norm by an ‘average’ member of a social system is a matter of degree. The given norm may be internalised by the people in different degrees or different norms may be internalised in different degrees. For example, the obligation of parents to protect their child is normally deeply internalised. The obligation to vote in elections according to the dictates of conscience is not that deeply internalised.
3. Further, ‘widespread’ acceptance of a norm in a social system is also a matter of degree. There is no specification as to the exact proportion of the members of a social system who must know about and accept norms before the norm can be said to be institutionalized. The necessary proportion varies from case and the complexity of the social system. In a large-scale social system, it is impossible for us to expect all the members to know and accept all the operative norms.
4. Finally, even the beliefs and patterns of overt behaviour may become institutionalized. For example, a dogma is a religious belief that, members of a particular religious group ‘must’ accept. Similarly, members of a political party are expected to accept its political ideology.