Elke Weik: The Emergence of Institutions. An Aesthetic-Affective Perspective. Springer, 2022.

This book is the first to present an experiential, aesthetic-affective approach to the study institutions. Drawing on hermeneutics, phenomenology and process philosophy, it conceptualises institutions as collective experiences with their own self-promoting and self-propelling powers.

The agentic turn in institutionalist theory has bereft scholars of the possibility to see institutional emergence, change and decline as anything but the result of actors’ interests and manipulations. This book, in contrast, seeks to re-establish the importance of factors beyond human design and intervention. Drawing on process theory it shows how ideas, norms and values can form self-stabilizing configurations that affect people without them realising it. It complements current thinking about institutions by showing how institutions have us long before we have them.

The emergence of institutions is the paradigmatic case of an institutional process that is over by the time we become aware of it, a process which, almost by definition, does not rely on interests, sensemaking or reasoning because it is the very process that constitutes these things.

With the help of authors as diverse as Antonio Damasio, A.N. Whitehead, J.W. von Goethe and Max Weber, Elke Weik crafts a perspective that allows us to understand institutions as aesthetic and affective powers in their own right.

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