The strength of societies is to a large extent determined by the quality of their institutions, which are the formal and informal frameworks for human interaction. These institutions – laws, customs, networks, organisations, languages, etc. – enable or constrain the realisation of an open, democratic and equitable society. They also determine a society’s ability to absorb shocks and its sustainability.
At Utrecht University, scholars from the fields of economics, history, public administration, culture, law, sociology, social psychology, language and communication, ethics, innovation studies, and geography join forces to find answers to the following key questions: Why do societies develop so divergently? And how do institutions contribute to the formation of open and sustainable societies?
Institutions for Open Societies (IOS) is one of the strategic themes of Utrecht University.
This year we started with IOS Lectures, a get-together for scholars and research master's students who are interested in the IOS theme. In these lectures we create a platform for sharing, exchanging and connecting knowledge and people in order to build new interdisciplinary research alliances within our strategic theme.
Bas van Bavel is Professor of Economic and Social History at the Faculty of Humanities. He also is programme director of the Institutions for Open Societies research theme. Through his research, he attempts to explain the long-term development of societies, looking for specific explanations of the differences that gradually emerge in the process. He looks primarily at differences in economic growth, the degree of equality and the extent to which societies can withstand shocks. He looks for the explanation of the differences in the institutions that societies form, i.e. the formal and informal rules of human relations.