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Murky Power: “Think Tanks” as Boundary Organizations

Rethinking Power in Organizations, Institutions, and Markets

ISBN: 978-1-78052-664-5, eISBN: 978-1-78052-665-2

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 5 April 2012


This chapter uses the case of American think tanks to develop the idea of a “boundary organization,” or a formal organization that acquires its distinctiveness and efficacy from its intermediate location in the social structure. Traversing, overlapping, and incorporating the logics of multiple institutional spheres – including those of academia, politics, business, and the market – think tanks at first seem to be organizations “divided against themselves.” However, by gathering complex mixtures of otherwise discordant resources, they create novel products, carry out novel practices, and claim for themselves a crucial mediating role in the social structure. This chapter's ultimate aim is to consider the implications of this idea for theories of organizational power. With respect to this aim, I argue that boundary organizations – and organizational boundary-making processes in general – underscore the need to think about power in relational and processional terms.



Medvetz, T. (2012), "Murky Power: “Think Tanks” as Boundary Organizations", Courpasson, D., Golsorkhi, D. and Sallaz, J.J. (Ed.) Rethinking Power in Organizations, Institutions, and Markets (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 34), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 113-133.



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