Philip Selznick has been a central, historical figure in the development of institutional theory. In particular his contribution in TVA and the Grass Roots and Leadership in Administration has been key. However, we put forward the relevance of Selznick’s broader portfolio of ideas, to show that they could inform institutional analysis in new ways. There are important ideas and insights that can be brought to bear on contemporary issues within institutional theory. In particular, Selznick was concerned with the ways in which organizational goals are deflected because of different interest groups. Organizations use various kinds of cooptation to deal with interest groups. Selznick’s perspective implies that institutional theorists need to be concerned with both deflection of purposes and interests. These ideas are explored further in his work, The Organizational Weapon, showing a concern with the nefarious effects of organizational practices, an avenue that institutional theory needs to explore further. Indeed, Selznick was always concerned with the consequences of institutionalization. He dealt with issues of organizational governance, purposes and interests, ideas of unanticipated as well as anticipated consequences, negative as well as positive effects of institutionalization all of which require further analysis in contemporary institutional theory. Also at the heart of Selznick’s work was an emphasis on policy and practice, coming from American pragmatist philosophy. For Selznick, knowledge is to be utilized to produce good policy and practice. Institutional theorists need to consider the applications of their knowledge.
We would like to thank Matt Kraatz and Mike Lounsbury for their invaluable comments on an early draft of this paper. They helped us understand better what we were trying to say.
Hinings, C. and Greenwood, R. (2015), "Missing in Action: The Further Contribution of Philip Selznick to Contemporary Institutional Theory", Institutions and Ideals: Philip Selznick’s Legacy for Organizational Studies (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 44), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 121-148. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20150000044006Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2015 Emerald Group Publishing Limited