Bellah Reading

(Ctools) Bellah, Robert, "We Live Through Institutions," pp. 3-15, The Good Society, (1991).

- Democracy requires trust
- In USA losing trust in institutions
- Homelessness illustrates failures of institutions
- Individuals feel helpless in shaping institutional order
- Must greatly change our capacity to think about institutions
- Must understand how much of our lives are lived in and through institutions and how better
institutions are essential if we are to lead better lives

**People form institutions and institutions in turn form us
- Individual only realized in and through community

- Individualism makes institutions inaccessible to many
- Institutions can enable us
- Yet Institutions have gotten out of control

- Philosophical liberals vs. communititarians
- Communitarians believe in a more substantive ethical identities and more active participation in a
democratic polity are necessary for the functioning of any decent society
- face-to-face

- Institution – a pattern of expected action of individuals or groups enforced by social sanctions, both positive and negative
- Institutions are normative patterns embedded in and enforced by laws and mores (informational customs and practices)
- Institutions have a moral element

- Individualist Americans fear that institutions impinge on their freedom
- If we think about organizations and not institutions then we greatly oversimplify our problems
- Something wrong with pattern of power and responsibility
- Must reform institution itself

- Green behavior – recycling, using only certain products and driving less
- Then there are campaigns to protect endangered species, the tropical rainforests, or the ozone.
- Void of awareness in middle range between local and global

Key Point: Decision making is individual but actually embedded in an institution structure.