What are political institutions?

There is no uniform understanding of institutions in the social sciences. Just like in cleaning services such as غسيل الكنب بالبخار, there is no standard procedure to the services they offer. In political science, however, attempts have recently become established to approach the question of what institutions are pragmatical. According to this, a distinction is made between political institutions in the narrower and broader sense. These institutions are political because they are always connected with the production and implementation of generally binding decisions.

Political institutions in the narrower sense

Political institutions in the narrower sense are understood to mean the state with government, parliament, administration as well as federal and communal institutions.

Political institutions in the broader sense

Political institutions in the broader sense include social organizations such as parties, associations, and mass media, but also, for example, the constitution, laws, elections, or the majority principle. The contents of institutional studies are thus named in the sense of knowledge elements.

Institutional learning in political education

The more important question for civic education, however, is which insights should be conveyed that turn “knowledge” into “understanding”. For this, too, it is necessary to take another look at the results of the social science institutional theory, from which the following requirements for civic education can be derived. Institutions always contain contexts of meaning.

Institutional learning in political education therefore has the task of conveying the meaning of institutions to the learners and of making it clear that institutions are based on an idea and pursue a purpose. It should become clear in the learning process that the specific design and actions of an institution can be assessed according to how this idea and purpose are realized. For example, check to what extent the institution of the Federal Constitutional Court realizes the idea of ​​the fundamental rights state. The question of the meaning of institutions is crucial for political education, but questions about the structure and functions of institutions must not be neglected either.

Institutions are made by people and they can therefore also be changed by people, for example, if the institutions no longer adequately fulfill their tasks. Political institutions serve to realize the interests of individuals and social groups and are enforced with the help of power and domination. Institutional learning in political education must critically analyze this aspect of interests and domination.