The Dialectical Relation

Between Institution and Achievement


by Mr. Nguyễn Trần Bạt, Business Executive

Hanoi, Vietnam


Whichever state or political system has to answer the question how to develop or how to minimize risks in the development process. While seeking for solutions, they are increasingly aware of the role of institution towards development; i.e. a reasonable institution will speed up and enhance the quality of development and an unreasonable one will hold back and rot the quality of development. 


It is really a big and complicated matter that cannot be analyzed thoroughly within a paper. With such a way of approaching, we will stop at elucidating the role of institution towards development by analysing two categories - Institution and Achievement.  



Institution - a multifaceted complex - have been dissected under various aspects so far. The most classical definition given by a German economist - Adolph Wagner - supposed that "Institution is contracts and statute laws that are ruling the life and man". Doughlas C. North, who was given Nobel prize for studies of economics and institution in 1993 said "Institution is limits outlined in the scope of human abilities and knowledge forming the interactive relations among human beings". In the early XX century, in Western countries, a new political trend - institutionalism - emerged; it considered institution to be any human sustainable alliance established to attain certain goals. This concept is somewhat like WTO's understanding that institution includes the three important contents that are game rules, mechanism and organization. We are of the opinion that institution is the group of all regulations and is the product of social negotations. Institution is, thus, by nature a subject with clear possession; it reflects the political trend choosen by the ruling party.     


Different from institution, achievement is just a phenomenon; it is an accidental subject, with no clear possession, thus is very easy to be "appropriated".  In many cases, achievements are produced by the society. However, the authorities trend to considering achievements of the society his political achievements or accomplishments of his leading activities; such kind of achievement is often taken as good reason to delay the process of institutional building and reform. It is what we call achievementism.  


Logically, a reasonable institution will produce achievements and an unreasonable one will not. But realities show that some unreasonable ones still have achievements; in such case, achievements belong to the society. Sometimes, the authorities tendentiously try to create achievements at all costs resulting in what is so called at-any-cost development - this conclusion will be scrutinized in the next part. The dialectical relation between institution and achievement is reflected by the patronization of achievementism over the existence of forces that restrain the institutional reform process; in other words, when institution is in an impasse, it will use achievements to protect itself. On the other hand, the quality of an institution reflects the political degree and nature of that nation, which is also the basis for the society to decide to choose leaders. The society cannot opt for political groups by political achievements but political nature. The ruling party's political nature is mirrored by the institution that it builds. There is no doubt that a reasonable institution will promote development; it stimulates political perspacity - the origin of all achievements in the ruling time of a party. This reflects the dialectical relation between institution and achievement. The more we are aware of the importance of institution building, the more drastic should we be in resisting the use of political achievements to legalize backward aspects of institution; at a higher level, we must eliminate any purpose of making political achievements the only instrument to legalize the power of politicians; otherwise, the humankind will have to face risks in the development process.                


Here, some may ask to explain the difference between a democratic state's political achievements and an undemocratic one's because an institution will be considered to have positive impacts on the development process providing that it gains certain achievements. Actually, in democratic nations, people do not pay much attention to political achievement but political perspicacity. So, what we should make clear is the difference between political achievement and political perspicacity. Political achievements are successes attained by a politician while he is holding a certain position; political perspicacity is a needed qualification of every politician, especially those who are in power or nurture an ambition to have power. With no political perspicacity, a politician - as a development-strategy-maker - will place his country in face of unpredictable risks. Certainly, if a politician owns political perspicacity, he will have more chances to succeed in leading his nation. However, political achievement does not always result from political perspacity. As analyzed in the first part, achievements are accidental and to undemocratic states, achievements are often abused to legalize the ruling position; in such cases, political achievements do not augur well for development; they are even signals of risks. On the other hand, only politicians who used to or are holding power can have political achievements. That is why in undemocratic states, election is, in essence, a race of political achievements while in democratic ones, political achievements are always verified by political perspacity. Nonetheless, the comparison between politcal achievement and political perspacity is unbalanced; thus, to assure its reasonableness, politicians in power have to select perspacious factors from their political achievements and explain them to convince their people and to compare with the political perspacity of rivals. One of strengths of democracy is that it encourages political perspacity instead of taking political achievements for granted or forcing people to acknowledge political achievements. Therefore, if political perspacity is a standard to select politicians, the society will keep developing; conversely, if political achievement is the basis of choices, the society will certainly be in recession because politicians will hunt for political achievements at all costs, regardless risks, hence making the development process an unpredictable object.    



v             Another approach to achievementism

Some theories show that the demand for being respected is nearly the highest level of the human and striving for achievements is actually striving for being respected by others. With such a meaning, could the psychology of striving for achievement be considered an objective phenomenon with certain positive impacts? 


To answer this quesiton, the clarification of the limit between the healthiness and the unhealthiness of the psychology of striving for achievement is supposed to be essential. Without the thirst for achievements, the human will have no objectives. The way one produces achievements to prove that he is conquering his ambition is absolutely different from that of stealing others' achievements. On the other hand, the achievement attained by human being's awareness or aspriation is not like achievementism. It is the limit between the healthiness and unhealthiness of the psychology of striving for achievement.  


Besides, the healthiness of the pyschology of striving for achievements is also regulated by the achievement-hunted motivation. If the motivation is not reasonable, it will engender an absurdity and if the absurdity is realized, it will be our task to eliminate it from our life. A man of no ideal will have no value but it will be more dangerous if he pursues a wrong ideal. In fact, many ideals which have been exploited in a wrong manner have lost prestige. And when human being cannot suffer from their wrong exploitation of ideals any more, they will replace idealism by pragmatism. Pragmatism is thought to be pre-eminent but it is only better than the wrong idealism. The idealism in our age is freedom and democracy. Freedom and democracy make men as long as the society self-balance. As long as men could self-balance, no longer could individual mistakes exist. Logically, if the society could self-balance, societal mistakes would disappear or in other words, it would self-overcome its mistakes. Whichever institution that can create such two parallel capacities will certainly lead to the formation of a healthy society - where every individual self-surmounts his extremenesses and the society self-repairs its defects.


Moreover, the psychology of striving for achievements will be a positive factor if it is the product of progressive trends especially those that can assure the balance between politics and phylosophy. If men's aspritation is not balanced, it is impossble for them to create products of aesthetic or ideal quality. If the imagination is morbid, it will give birth to distortional products and the at-any-cost creation of distortional products will end in destruction; yet, without ideals, men will be valueless and there wil be no development. Therefore, the most important thing is the imaginative or spritual quality of men when creating achievements.


Nevertheless, not all objective factors are correct and healthy. A mistake in man's imagination, if not prevented, may become a measurable bunder. It is the transformation of mistakes in awareness into mistakes in realities. If man thinks in a wrong manner, he will have wrong actions which, in turn, will engender a wrong substance or product. The realization of wrong thoughts is a negative process of the social life. This process is in parallel and is even more vehement than the process of creating the right. Still, the strength of the right with a small amount can overcome the wrong with a big amount; put it in another way, the quantity of the wrong is much bigger than that of the right, but the quality of the right can dominate the quantity of the wrong; thanks to which, the society can develop in a balanced manner.   

v           Disastrous consequences of achievementism

Discussing achievementism, some may ask why it has tenaciously existed so far. Many reasons are explainable to this fact, firstly, it is an objective psychology as analyzed above; secondly, it comes from the authorities' incomprehensive awareness of the role of institution towards the development process; and finally, it results from the ruling party's lack of achievement for the present, so in order to legalize their position as the ruling party, they have to allege political achievement as the past products. For this reason, some countries cannot escape from their past. It is surprising that many present ruling parties are too purposeful to realize that the achievement of the past ruling parties do not have any relation with their political perspicacity and they cannot replace their political perspicacity by the experience of the past.  


In addition, the mission of the politician is to lead his society to the next stages of development. Therefore, the politician has to prove his capacity by his political perspicacity or by the rationality of his leading instruments. Nonetheless, some politicians, who have neither political perspicacity nor the ability to convince people of their political perspicacity, have to allege political achievements, and that results in the psychology of political achievement hunting. For these reasons, achievementism is exploited as one among political instruments replacing the essential rationality of the leading process. It is ominous because if the authorities try to use achievements in various phenomena of life instead of building and reforming institution, it will make the society an unpredictable object and the authorities will gradually lose his society-leading ability.      


Cultural difference between democratic and undemocratic states is also a fator resulting in the interminable and legal existence of achievementism. While the democratic only chase themselves, the undemocratic always pursue their "neighbours", which contributes to producing the trend of legalizing the ruling position by political achievements; in turn, it will lead to slow development or an imbalance between the spirtual and the material life; this imbalance itself is the biggest risk in the development process. It can be asserted that the very weakness of the undemocratic is its lack of a system of standards on happiness, so human issues are neither analyzed nor explained comprehensively. This weakness creates favourable conditions for the democratic to substitute political achievements for the legality and rationality of institution, not realizing that they are facing the biggest risk in the development process - that is the disappearance of human factors or the "degeneration" of the spiritual life. It is the first consequence of achievementism. 


The second consequence of achievementism lies in the policy of development at all costs. Let us take China for example. In recent time, the world has witnessed China's hot or uncontrollable growth. As calculated, China now consumes 7% of the world oil outcome, 31% of the world coal outcome and 27% of the world steel outcome. In 2003, it lacked 10 millions KW electricity and it is predicted to be short of 20 millions KW electricity in 2004. These figures engender a feeling that China is like a giant glue cauldron while its investors and manufacturers are all standing beside to make it become the world's most-energy-consumed country at an alarming speed. The Chinese cannot understand why their leaders try to lower the economic development speed to around 8% while they used to strive for 12%. Some realize that development itself contains destruction. The development of the Chinese economy is, thus, a risk to the whole world. By showing the two direct consequences of achievementism, we can come to a conclusion that achievementism is the origin of all risks in the development process. Our task now is to answer the question that which institution can control achievementism as the source of all risks in the development process.     



Democratic institution is asserted to be the only management mechanism that can generate development in its true meaning. Some may ask why others still produce development. We should think that, it is necessary to make a clear distinction between growth and development. Growth is purely the increase of material values while development is the betterment of both material and spritual life. The limitation of other kinds of institution is that it does not give a high respect for human factors making them fail to assure development quality. What other kinds of institution produce is not development but growth and they are now suffering from it. That is why we have no other choice but to to build a national and even a global democratic institution to manage risks of the development process.    


It is needless to use rhetorics to describe a democratic institution because its strengths are proved convincingly by the amazing development of Western countries who did receive Monstesquieu, Diderot and Voltaire's thoughts of freedom and democracy a long time ago. In this paper, we would have a look at three reasons making democracy an universal value, namely democratic institution as the premise to build the state of law - where the law is dominant, democratic institution as the only mechanism making the development process a predictable object, and democratic institution as the environment of peaceful collapsing scenarioes.    


Democratic institution -  The premise to build the state of law

First of all, it is necessary to clarify the term of the state of law. One of the most popular understanding is the state of law is a democratic state committed to the principle of the supremacy of the law, i.e. the state is allowed to do what the law permits and people are allowed to do what the law does not forbid. A society will be considered to be ideal as long as it is regulated by the law with the nature of social contracts, in other words, the law is the supreme regulation ruling the whole social life. It should be asserted that a democratic state is the only one where laws are social contracts because in the democratic state, all men have the right to discuss equally all things regulating their life.      


The most important difference between the democratic state's law and the undemocratic one's is that, the former protects human rights while the latter almost protects the rights of the representatives - or the state's rights. The protection of the representatives' rights is quite dissimilar from that of human rights. It is obvious that the civil society is established as well as human rights are assured. The civil society is the surface manifestation of the democratization process. It is the democratization process that gives birth to the civil society and it is only the civil society that can create the natural quietness for man with all his rights to live and develop. In the civil society, all objects are under the supremacy of law. Law ensures the living environment of the human in the civil society of which the prerequisites are the ownerships, the inviolable rights of man, freedom, politics, the owner of social status and the legal system. Without the inviolabilities, neither the democratic society nor the political life can develop. If the political life is undeveloped, the people will not be mobilized in a balanced manner and the society, thus, cannot develop.    


Democratic institution - The mechanism to manage risks in the development process

Development is a complex function including many factors like natural resources, labour, population communities, human being, culture, nature, history, etc. These factors must be organized and co-ordinated to build institution; institution, in turn, will produce development. Democracy creates equal conditions for every individual to participate in the development process making individuals' contributions predictable parameters. It is also democracy that will objectively verify factors supporting the development process and answer the question that how long each factor can have positive impacts on the development process; based on which, it will create reasonable updating and recharging cycles to assure that no factor can hold back the development process or degrade the quality of the development process. The nature of democracy is likely to create the moderateness as well as the sensibleness of the development. Ungrounded political ambitions or political achievements - or the origin of the thought of at-any-cost development - are not good instruments to measure the rationality of the development. That is why the undemocratic development will engender the uncontrolableness of the development process. 


Putting the two factors - democracy and development - in a certain relation will reveal controlling factors; i.e. it will enkindle the demand for building a global institution to control the development in the world and in the valley of big economies; otherwise, human being will have to face repercussions of the Chinese-styled at-any-cost development. It is a must to answer the question that how to build a global institution to manage risks of economies whose leaders are taking political achievements as their legal fulcrum? Whether WTO, with its strict requirements on a market economy, can fulfil this mission? These are big questions that must be answered in the early decades of the XXI century for human being's development.  


Democratic institution - The environment of peaceful collapsing scenarioes

Let us analyze the concept of the collapse of government. One of strengths of a democratic institution is that it asserts the people's power; in other words, it facilitates the people to adjust the political trend or the political quality of the society via their selection of the ruling party. In turn, the ruling party will run policies to make the society develop under the chosen tendency. Therefore, the people becomes the most exact measurement of the ruling party's political rationality. If the people mistakenly select their rights-protectors or representatives, they will make another choice resulting in the collapse of government. Term is the most peaceful form of collapse, i.e. if the govermnet falls in the deadlock, the democratic institution will provide some collapsing technology and liberate communities from ties by putting an end to the ruling term normally or abnormally that forms the collapse of various periods of the state. It is the very strength of the democracy - where political mistakes are not dragged on; i.e. both the power and the risk are under a sensible control and the society does not have to suffer from the mistake of an individual or a group.   


The collapse of government is actually a normal phenomenon in conformity with the development rule. Obviously, any development is to experience a process of selection and discharge of unbefitting factors. Nevertheless, it is required to build peaceful collapsing scenarioes to assure that the collapse of government does not cause heavy damages; as long as fulfilling this mission, we will not have to face the disintegration of a community or a nation. Here, we would like to emphasize that, a peaceful collapsing scenario must be designed based on the diversity of the development life or the pluralism in other words, which is proved by many theories including Marx's theory, especially Marx's philosophy with his analyses of the dialectic development rule. A dialectical development consists of the internal movement of a factor and the interaction of a factor with others; if we deny the pluralism, we will then deny a very important dialectic factor that is the interation of a factor with others. For this reason, the acknowledgment of the uniqueness of any factor will eliminate the diversity while the diversity is a natural attribute of the life. In sum, all above analyses take us to a conclusion that the democratic institution is the only environment of peaceful collapsing scenarioes; in other words, it is the only milieu that makes the diversity of life become a necessary and sufficient condition to build the Theory of Development. 



We are now living in a world where democracy is increasingly proved to be the dominant trend. For this reason, to be a part of the world, to develop healthily as well as to succeed in controlling risks in the development process and in building peaceful collapsing scenarioes, every nation has no other choice but to establish and perfect its democracy. It is also an evidence of cooperation - one among most important political norms in the modern world. 




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