Institutions on the Move and Revolutionary Shifts

Institutions on the Move and Revolutionary Shifts

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6270-2.ch004


After the analysis of evolutionary institutional changes, the fourth chapter will define revolutionary transformations. Revolutions, conceptualized as abrupt processes of social transformation, follow specific life-cycle and result from two main reasons: lack of efficiency and social justice. The chapter is structured as follows. In the first part, the author will provide a general overview of revolutions and revolutionary processes, discussing in detail its main classifications, characteristics and causes, leading actors, overall phases, and outcomes. The second part will outline different revolutionary processes, zooming on scientific revolutions, technology revolutions, and industrial revolutions. There, industrial revolutions and its main elements are investigated in detail, showing how technological innovations lead to dramatic changes of the social reality. By comparing characteristics of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions, there is proposed a model defining the elements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Finally, there is discussed a model outlining how of industrial revolutions can change and transform the social institutions.
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New technologies such as robots and cognitive computing along with cyber-physical systems and IoT have the potential to disrupt fundamentally existing social order and to open the floor to new disruptive and revolutionary changes. As Schwab (2016) formulates it …in its scale, scope and complexity, the (new coming) transformation will be unlike anything the humankind has experienced before.

However, what is a revolutionary process? How can we recognize the characteristics, the dynamics and the deployment of an industrial revolution? Can we prepare, individually or as a group, by adopting appropriate policies and measures to protect our socio-economic realms? Should we take the lead or oppose to transformational processes? The revolutionary movements in a whole and the abrupt transformations in institutional settings attract scholars since Antiquity (Goldstone, 2015). Looking for new understanding of these phenomena, the present chapter will further present and investigate revolutionary movements and radical institutional changes, giving insights into its main characteristics, stages and outcomes. Following the analysis of institutions and their main characteristics in the second chapter, and after discovering the processes of incremental institutional changes and the role of agency in the third chapter, the present chapter will go further by making an in-depth analysis of the causes and outcomes of radical, fundamental and revolutionary institutional changes. As earlier discussed, institutions represent complex socio-political and economic structures that serve to guarantee continuity and reproduction of the existing social arrangements, preserving the established order and stability. Furthermore, designed to sustain the existing social realms, institutions usually have instruments to endure the crisis. That is why, revolutionary transformations in the dominant institutional logic, rules set and social ideologies are rare events in human history (Beck, 2013). Factors as path-dependence, historical distribution and standings of power, lock-in costs, socially embedded mental models, dominant ideologies and shared cultural beliefs impede institutions to react on more dramatic, dynamic and abrupt social demands for new rules. Furthermore, fundamental transformations of rules (and institutions) are possible only through disruptive social processes or “revolutions”. That is why, further analysis of the “revolutionary” processes and how they emerge, erupt and lead to profound transformations of the existing rules and institutional frameworks can help us to recognize the common patterns for redefining, accepting and adopting new disruptive social order.

Generally, revolutions confront both the current situation and the mechanisms of the evolutionary processes to resolve it. Many evidences prove that only abrupt revolutionary transformations can change the dominant social order. The studies about substantial transformative changes, as for example for abolishing slavery (Lane & McDonald, 2011), adoption of human rights codes (Donnelly, 2013; Iriye, Goedde & Hitchcock, 2012), and ban of the child labor (Humphreis, 2010) prove that revolutionary institutional transformation cannot be undertook as side projects. Stick to the paradox of institutional embeddedness (Coriat & Dosi, 2000), neo-institutional theories search to interpret institutional transformations only as an evolutionary and incremental process of reconfiguration, bricolage and absorption of new institutions by social actors in the framework of the existing social order. However, we need to gain better understanding about radical changes processes in different fields. Many of the existing institutional settings became obsolete and working within the dominant institutional logic is not efficient. Therefore, it is important to comprehend deeper social and institutional transformations as response to dramatic and unpredicted social shocks, opening the floor to new waves of development and better social arrangements.

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