Institutional Logics in Action, Part A: Volume 39 Part A


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

This double volume presents state-of-the-art research and thinking on the dynamics of actors and institutional logics. In the introduction, we briefly sketch the roots and branches of institutional logics scholarship before turning to the new buds of research on the topic of how actors engage institutional logics in the course of their organizational practice. We introduce an exciting line of new works on the meta-theoretical foundations of logics, institutional logic processes, and institutional complexity and organizational responses. Collectively, the papers in this volume advance the very prolific stream of research on institutional logics by deepening our insight into the active use of institutional logics in organizational action and interaction, including the institutional effects of such (inter)actions.

Based on the keynote address given at the conference on “Organizing Institutions: Creating, Enacting and Reacting to Institutional Logics” held at the Banff Springs Hotel in June 2012, this essay analyzes the relationship between Max Weber's polytheistic theory of value spheres and institutional logics, proposing that the latter project entails studying institutional logics through a framework of comparative religions. I argue that God, love, transcendence, and immanence are all potentially useful analytic categories by which to understand institutional logics.

According to most theoretical formulations, institutional logics contain both an ideational and a material dimension. Whereas the ideational aspect, such as cognitive frames and symbols, has received significant attention in the growing literature on institutional logics, the material aspect has remained largely invisible and often implicit. We analyze the 16 most central theoretical and empirical works on institutional logics with the aim of exploring how the material dimension of logics has been conceptualized and researched. Our findings suggest that materiality has been interpreted primarily as practices and structures, and rarely as physical objects. We explore some consequences of omitting physical materials as an object of study in institutional logics research and point to avenues for future research that may enhance theory development of institutional logics by explicitly attending to the role of materials.

In this paper, I discuss the possibility of creating a more fruitful conversation between institutional logics and institutional work as two central streams within institutional theory. I begin by situating each of these lines of theorizing within their respective intellectual traditions. I then elaborate on their core arguments alongside their theoretical assumptions. Specifically, I articulate how they each highlight some aspects of institutional dynamics while disregarding or downplaying others. Finally, I point to some similarities, differences, and possible analytic division of labor between them. I conclude by arguing that the tension between institutional logics and institutional work, as two frameworks for conceptualizing and exploring institutional dynamics, is the most recent incarnation of a long series of theoretical conundrums within neo-institutionalism, each triggering deep and ongoing discussions that enriched our thinking. As such, this tension is welcome and important, as long as each stream is able to define its own boundaries.

We build on the concept of “constellations of logics” (Goodrick & Reay, 2011) to further our understanding of the relationship between institutional logics and action. We do so through a comparative case study of similar primary health care initiatives in Denmark and Canada. We draw on micro- and macro-level data to show how both the arrangement and relationship among logics impacted the design and accomplishment of the initiatives in each country. Based on our data, we theorize five different mechanisms through which logics can simultaneously constrain and enable action.

Why do significant cultural anomalies frequently fail to generate change in institutional logics? Current process models offer a number of direct ways to enable the creation and diffusion of ideas and practices, but the resistance to adoption and diffusion, something so emphasized by the old institutionalism, has not been incorporated as directly in those models in a way that allows us to answer this question. Therefore, we theorize three retrenchment processes that impede innovation: cultural positioning, behavioral resistance, and feedback shaping. The ways in which these processes work are detailed in a case study of one high profile cultural anomaly: oil production and environmental management in Alberta’s oil sands from 2008 to 2011. Implications for the institutional logics perspective and understanding logics in action are discussed.

We propose that institutional logics are resources organizations use to leverage their strategic choices. We argue that firms with an awareness of multiple available logics, expressed by a larger stock of competences and a broader industrial scope are more likely to add an institutional logic to their repertoire and to become purist in this new logic. We also hypothesize that a favorable opportunity set as expressed by status leads high and low status firms to add a logic but not to focus exclusively on this new logic. We examine our hypotheses in the French industrial design industry from 1989 to 2003 in which a managerialist logic emerged and prevailed along with the pre-existing institutional logics of modernism and formalism. Our findings contribute to theory on the relationship between organizations’ strategy and institutional change and partially address the paradox of why high-status actors play a key role in triggering institutional change when such change is likely to undermine the very basis of their social position and advantage.

Institutional logics and collective identities are closely intertwined: logics shape the emergence and evolution of identities, which in turn play a crucial role in mediating the influence of the logics themselves. Though there exists a significant body of research on the intersection of the two phenomena, relatively little attention has been given to changes in the strength, content, and permanence of particular logic–identity associations. In this paper we explore empirically the question of whether and how a logic and identity may become severed, through an inductive case study of the development of the hospitalist identity in health care in the United States. Based on this study, we propose a set of mechanisms through which the distancing of a logic and an identity may occur. We also discuss potential counterfactual outcomes, in order to build theory regarding the longitudinal relationship between logics and identities.

This paper explores how legacies of past logics spawn variation in the institutional landscapes of different geographic regions in China. Of particular interest is how this variation influences the ways that actors interpret and respond to broader societal and world society pressures. Employing a cross-level comparative research design, we examine the enduring legacies of previous state logics, which have given rise to distinctive material and symbolic resource environments in different regional communities across China. To the extent that institutional contexts direct the attention of actors toward particular environmental stimuli and provide the symbolic and material resources to respond, a better understanding of how contexts differ provides more accurate causal explanations of the variability of organizational behavior. We explore this phenomenon in the context of recent government-mandated corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives in China. Our examination of public and private CSR initiatives, along with the CSR activities of a sample of 714 listed Chinese companies, suggests that legacies from past state logics become embedded in local institutional infrastructures and shape how abstract, multifaceted CSR initiatives are interpreted and implemented.

Recent institutional scholarship has discovered new possibilities for change in both the accumulation of incremental transformations and in the skillful action, institutional work, and creative activities of political and institutional entrepreneurs. Lurking behind stability and change lie actors who can act reflexively within and with existing institutions, and who do so on a routine, rather than exceptional basis, redeploying, recombining, and transposing extant systems to solve problems of identity and control. This paper probes the potentials and limits of those possibilities – and the prospects for reform in American banking – via a case study of the Bank of North Dakota and efforts to transpose its hybrid model of state and community logics into other states. The analysis first finds a full range of institutional labors and skillful activities emphasized by recent work as the foundation for transposition. It finds crisis; the presence of multiple logics; the mobilization of boundary spanning networks; the use of conferences and theorization to sustain independent discourse and collective identities; skillful framing; and substantial editing and recombination to fit the model with receiving states’ institutions. It then juxtaposes these conditions with outcomes in the states, developing some implications for actor-centered institutionalisms, current preoccupations with mechanisms, and state-level strategies for financial reform.

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Book series
Research in the Sociology of Organizations
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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