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ResearchDepartment of SociologyResearch in GroningenResearch lines

Institutions, Organizations, and Sustainable Cooperation

Which institutional arrangements bring about and sustain cooperative relationships that create added value for individuals, organizations, and societies?

The past decades have come with a number of major technological and socio-economic transformations, ranging from the proliferation of the World Wide Web and the related opportunities for instantaneous and boundaryless communication, to the increased global competition and the related pressures on job security, incomes, employability, mobility and the social fabric.

According to some observers, one of the most important consequences of these transformations is that most of the institutional arrangements that were in place to guarantee the production of social welfare come under pressure. More specifically, top-down governance through formal control, monetary incentives, and hierarchical authority structures, not only loose their effectiveness, but may even become counterproductive, as many examples from the financial or public sector show.

It is therefore no surprise that many scholars and practitioners diagnose the societal template for value creation to undergo a fundamental transition from an “organization society” to a “network society”. This transition, they argue, is gradual, irreversible, lasting, and eventually even necessary to safeguard value creation in modern societies. Whereas the organization society was based on eliciting compliance through formal command and control, the network society relies on bottom-up processes of self-organization, participatory forms of governance, and peer-to-peer coordination. Not command, control, and compliance, but networks, reputation, and co-creation would be the new, more effective, and more sustainable mechanisms for societies to thrive.

We observe a proliferation of “new” institutional arrangements and organizational forms, ranging from variations on the classical template of the cooperative, to social enterprises, hybrid public-private partnership networks, self-organizing teams, participatory forms of governance, large-scale reforms of the public sector, or far reaching fiscal, administrative, and political decentralization at the country level. But despite much public and scholarly interest for these new forms, a central question in this context still waits for an answer: to what degree are these new institutional arrangements able to bring about and sustain cooperative relationships in different societal domains? The research line Institutions, Organizations, and Cooperation attempts to answer this question. It does so in four interrelated research themes: (1) Behavioral Micro-Foundations: Social Rationality and Sustainable Cooperation; (2) Societies and Markets: Policy Reform, Solidarity, and Social Welfare; (3) Organizations and Professions: Restructuring, Network Dynamics, and Joint Production; (4) Individuals and Communities: Social Relations, Cooperation, and Well-Being.

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Last modified:18 February 2019 1.58 p.m.
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