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Rituals of Critique and Institutional Maintenance at the United Nations Climate Change Summits

Microfoundations of Institutions

ISBN: 978-1-78769-128-5, eISBN: 978-1-78769-127-8

Publication date: 25 November 2019


Particularly in governance and policy processes, critique is embedded in highly institutionalized formats. In this chapter, the authors apply Boltanski’s concept of critical tests to examine accepted forms of expression in the context of an institutionalized policy setting, the annual Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The authors find that different policy actors’ uses of critique reflect embedded field positions and interests. While marginal actors drew upon existential tests to construct radical critique, the highly ritualized performance of critique called into question its efficacy in promoting change within the overall structure of a highly institutionalized event. The authors discuss inroads to studying the relations between critique, power, and microfoundations of institutions.




The authors would like to acknowledge the support of Guido Möllering, Patrick Haack, Lee Jarvis, and Bilal Jathol, whose help in various stages of this work is greatly appreciated.


Islam, G., Rüling, C.-C. and Schüßler, E. (2019), "Rituals of Critique and Institutional Maintenance at the United Nations Climate Change Summits", Haack, P., Sieweke, J. and Wessel, L. (Ed.) Microfoundations of Institutions (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 65B), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 23-40.



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