Two Pillars of Institutions: Constitutive Rules and Participation

In Leo Townsend, Preston Stovall & Hans Bernhard Schmid (eds.), The Social Institution of Discursive Norms. Historical, Naturalistic, and Pragmatic Perspectives. Routledge (2021)
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The creation of new institutions and the initiation of new forms of behaviour cannot be explained only on the basis of constitutive rules – they also require a broader commitment of individuals who participate in social practices and, thus, to become members of a community. In this paper, I argue that the received conception of constitutive rules shows a problematic intellectualistic bias that becomes particularly manifest in three assumptions: (i) constitutive rules have a logical form, (ii) constitutive rules have no normative force, and (iii) rules are essentially tied to a sanctioning authority. I discuss these three claims in light of real-life examples. The goal of this discussion is to show that the normative force of constitutive rules is based on the shared commitment of participants who engage in the relevant practices. The inner cohesion and the persistence in time of these practices is possible only because participants continuously calibrate their own forms of behaviour to that of the other members of the community, which underscores the social dimension of constitution.

Author's Profile

Wolfgang Huemer
Università Degli Studi Di Parma


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