Francesco Guala

“In Understanding Institutions, the best ideas from social scientists and philosophers who have written on the subject are combined to form a new, comprehensive theory of social institutions. The aspects of three popular theories of institutions—as equilibriums of strategic games, regulative rules, and constitutive norms—are combined in Francesco Guala’s theory.

Guala proposes a much-needed merger of equilibrium- and rules-based systems while explaining important institutions like money, private property, and marriage. The theory is given in a straightforward, understandable manner that is accessible to a large audience of academics working in many subjects, despite the fact that he incorporates principles from game theory. Guala addresses long-standing difficulties in the social sciences, including reflexivity, realism, Verstehen, and fallibilism, by outlining and addressing many implications of the unified theory. He also questions whether it is possible to distinguish between social and natural research using the criteria of causal and ontological dependence and analyzes the idea of “looping effects” and “interactive sorts” defended by Ian Hacking. Guala demonstrates how these esoteric philosophical questions have significant practical and political ramifications by focusing on current discussions regarding the meaning of marriage.

Understanding Institutions gives fresh perspectives on what institutions are, how they function, and what they might do for us by moving beyond particular situations to general models and principles.”