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Jan Slaby & Christian von Scheve: Affect's "Iron Cage"

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Cross-border mobility often involves engaging with social institutions, that is with those dimensions of society that work to promote order, stability, and structure. Institutions thus can have enabling as well as constraining, inclusionary as well as exclusionary effects: They provide reliability and predictability to various domains of social life, but at the same time require compliance and subordination, as expressed in Weber’s “Iron Cage” metaphor.

Present theories of institutions emphasize norms, rules, and habits to explain their ambivalent character. We challenge these understandings by providing an account of institutions that instead foregrounds their affective character. Our point of departure is Maurice Hauriou’s definition of institutions as involving three key components: a guiding idea (the idée directrice) which is sought to be practically and normatively established in a social milieu; an organized power mandated to realize, advance and secure this idea; and a group of agents having stakes in the endeavor specified by the guiding idea. Our contribution discusses each of these components with respect to what we call institutional affect and its implications for human mobility.