Talk of “macrofoundations” helps foreground the constitutive and contextualizing powers of institutions – dynamics that are inadvertently obscured by the imagery of microfoundations. Highlighting these aspects of institutions in turn opens intriguing lines of inquiry into institutional reproduction and change, lived experience of institutions, and tectonic shifts in institutional configurations. However, there is a twist: taking these themes seriously ultimately challenges any naïve division of micro and macro, and undermines the claim of either to a genuinely foundational role in social analysis. The authors propose an alternative “optometric” imagery – positioning the micro and the macro as arrays of associated lenses, which bring certain things into focus at the cost of others. The authors argue that this imagery should not only encourage analytic reflexivity (“a more optometric institutionalism”) but also draw attention to the use of such lenses in everyday life, as an underexplored but critical phenomenon for institutional theory and research (“an institutionalist optometry”).
We would like to thank the other editors of this volume for their comments on earlier drafts of this chapter, and we especially thank Vern Glaser and our anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments and suggestions. We are grateful also to those who have been exposed to elements of this argument, and have articulated either support or critique; each helpful, and both much appreciated.
Steele, C.W.J. and Hannigan, T.R. (2020), "Integrating and Complicating the Micro and Macro “foundations” of Institutions: Toward a More Optometric Institutionalism and an Institutionalist Optometry", Steele, C.W.J., Hannigan, T.R., Glaser, V.L., Toubiana, M. and Gehman, J. (Ed.) Macrofoundations: Exploring the Institutionally Situated Nature of Activity (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 68), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 19-46. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20200000068001
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