Accounting for Change in Diverse Societies

Institutions: The Hardware of Pluralism

Publication Date: April 2017

Jane Jenson - Université de Montréal, Canada

Jane Jenson is a Full Professor in the Department of Political Science at the Université de Montréal and a Senior Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research’s Successful Societies Program. She is also the Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and Governance. Her research is focused on ongoing changes in social citizenship in Canada, Europe, and Latin America. Her recent publications include “Historical Transformations of Canada’s Social Architecture: Institutions, Instruments, and Ideas” and “Narratives and Regimes of Social and Human Rights: The Jackpines of the Neoliberal Era.”

Institutions—both state and civil society—are central to pluralism. They establish governance practices, define citizenship, accord individual and collective rights, and identify or enable the obligations of citizens. Through these means, institutions can be used to advance pluralism—for example, through affirmative action policies or more inclusive constitutions—but they can also be used to obstruct pluralism—for example, through bans on religious garments. An institution can contribute to pluralism only to the extent that a society’s cultural ideas, norms, values and practices support this outlook. As the “hardware” of pluralism, institutions require the right “software” to work.

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