Problems with Institutions
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Problems with Institutions

As discussed last essay, institutions can be vehicles for communal efforts that can do much good. However, there are inherent problems with institutions, which can steer the best of institutions off course.
1. The problem of leadership. All institutions require administration by humans, and even the most caring and compassionate people have hopes, fears, and desires (many of which we are unaware of) that can undermine the work. For example, is the plan to expand the physical plant a thoughtful decision based on clear need, or does it largely reflect a leaderís desire to having a lasting tribute to that leaderís governance? Is the opposition to another personís plan due to problems with that plan, or to dislike of that person?
2. The problem of succession. There is no perfect, and perhaps not even a good, formula to make sure that the lofty goals of those who founded a given institution will be shared by those who become subsequent leaders.
3. The problem of resources. Once an institution obtains things of value, such as a building or an endowment, there will be people vying to control those resources. Their aims may not be avaricious or otherwise malevolent, but they will often care deeply about how those resources are used and find themselves in bitter conflict with those who have different ideas. This is particularly true among people whose gifts of money, time, or effort have helped the institution to thrive.
Next essay, I will offer a Girardian perspective on how institutions relate to the scapegoating process. 

Go on to: Institutions and the Scapegoating Process
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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