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date: 03 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In thinking about the Church as an institution, this chapter argues that there is a need for a more imaginative approach. Previous approaches to ‘institutions’ are critiqued for the various ways in which they fall short of understanding a phenomenon like the medieval Church, and instead this chapter is inspired by Avner Greif’s argument that an institution can only be understood if one considers how it is used and the ‘transactions’ that take place within it. Looking particularly at visitations and synods, the chapter argues that the expectations surrounding institutions were the product of a symbiotic relationship between those inside organizations and those outside; that in thinking of the medieval Church as ‘an institution’ we need to think about the interaction of lay, clerical and episcopal desire and agency, rather than one top-down monolith.

Keywords: institutions, social theory, visitation, synods, bishops

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