The Sungusungu justice system of Tanzania is an informal institution of social control that emerged in response to weak law enforcement by the state. By examining the development of Sungusungu in a Sukuma population that migrated to Rukwa region and its reception among the indigenous population, the authors show how certain communities are more prepared than others to sustain prosocial organizational behavior, thereby demonstrating the constraints that affect the diffusion of social institutions across social groups. The article challenges the assumption that individual agency (self-interest and power) commonly dominates the sometimes conservative nature of institutions. From an applied perspective, this case study illustrates that organizations require cultural rules to define goals and sustain effective actions. These sets of cultural rules are often found among particular populations, and efforts to spread them can be a slow process. An understanding of these conservative cultural processes is important to policy makers and applied scholars attempting to understand, control, or harness the public good produced by grassroots social movements and organizations.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.