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Dr Nadia Von Jacobi - The common ground for formal and informal institutions? Shared moral narratives and the moral systems they create

Venue: Online

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We are pleased to announce the 1st Seminar Series on Governance, Institutions, and Sustainability” jointly hosted by the Centre for Political Economy and Institutional Studies and by the Birkbeck Responsible Business Centre, within the Birkbeck Business School.   

In our rapidly evolving world, the intricate web connecting governance, institutions, and sustainability has become increasingly prominent. We invite scholars, researchers, and practitioners to enhance this very important debate and to join us in exploring the profound intertwining of these critical elements at our upcoming seminar series.



Formal and informal institutions form an important, yet partially still incomprehensible relationship, as investigated in the culture and institutions literature. Informal institutions can facilitate the enforcement of formal institutions, or hamper it: this depends on potential contradictions, tensions and frictions that can emerge between what the formal institutions seeks to regulate and the values that are replicated and preserved through informal institutions. We draw on moral psychology literature (Haidt, 2012) and suggest that shared moral narratives may be a common ground to both, values pursued through informal - and the predictability sought for through formal - institutions. Using an innovative database of about 18.000 folktales that are at least 100 years old, we elicit moral foundations and a series of values and social norms that have been transmitted in the transcriptions of these oral traditions. Using regression network analysis, we investigate which values and norms tend to appear together, and which key differences we find when comparing moral systems of different parts of the world. Our results provide new insights into (i)cultural variability across the planet (ii) moral systems and their most central values. We expect our findings to provide valuable insights for policy-making that seeks for greater compatibility of formal institutions with existing informal institutions.



Dr Nadia Von Jacobi (University of Trento, Italy)


Hosting Institutes:
Centre for Political Economy and Institutional Studies (CPEIS), Birkbeck University of London; Birkbeck Responsible Business Centre (RBC)


Convener/Organiser: Dr Luca Andriani

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