Man’s effort to institutionalize every aspect of life is well known. There are political institutions, institutions for governance, financial institutions, judicial institutions, academic institutions, social institutions and religious or spiritual institutions. Institutions offer the benefit of consistency, continuity and control.
Man probably thought his work was done after having created institutions for every possible segment of life. Things did work well for some time; however Man has certainly been jolted out of his relaxed stupor. The realization that no institutions are indefinitely relevant or that life is not so simple to be canned into institutions, have started disturbing man’s conscience.
Today all established institutions are being questioned like never before and some institutions are battling for their survival. Why are institutions going through this churn? I think the answer lies in the fact that like everything else even ‘Decay of Institutions’ got institutionalized. First Man creates institutions, and then institution creates Men and then the decay sets in. Until Man reinvents institutions with fresh ideas they would decay and die.
What does this mean? This means that when Institutions start creating Men, Man stops thinking and trusts in the processes and procedures to create the desired outcome. In this assembly line of men, the casualty is critical thinking. A man devoid of critical thinking becomes an easy pray for unethical, immoral and spineless behavior. Failure of Lehmann Brothers, 2008 financial crisis; Huge backlog of cases in courts of law and low conviction rates; Corruption in bureaucracy; Income inequality; Accelerated rate of divorce; Persistence of poverty; increasing instances of suicides. All of these not only indicate crumbling institutions but also a breakdown of critical thinking. Off late Contra- Institutional thinking has been gaining momentum. College drop outs becoming billionaires; Occupy Wall Street movement; Arab spring; same-sex marriages; Wikileaks; Popularity of Open-Source software; crowed funding etc. are examples.
So, is the future of institutions doomed and would survival of humanity entirely depend upon contra-institution thinking? I think that all institutions still have a continual role to play and should not be discarded altogether. However, institutions would have to change their mode of functioning. They should encourage critical thinking and not subdue it among the members and help everyone to know themselves better. Any institution that discourages critical thinking or doesn’t facilitate self-knowledge will find its survival tough.