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Talk of “macrofoundations” helps foreground the constitutive and contextualizing powers of institutions – dynamics that are inadvertently obscured by the imagery of…
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”).
This chapter provides a summary of the closing plenary at the 2018 Alberta Institutions Conference in which four scholars – Markus Höllerer, Marc Schneiberg, Patricia…
This chapter provides a summary of the closing plenary at the 2018 Alberta Institutions Conference in which four scholars – Markus Höllerer, Marc Schneiberg, Patricia Thornton, and Charlene Zietsma – shared their views on how we could once again put the macrofoundations of institutional theory more center-stage in institutional analysis. The first major theme emerging from the panel discussion pertains to the meaning of macrofoundations. While Schneiberg sees institutions as socio-cognitive infrastructures, Zietsma emphasizes their constitutive nature. Second, both Thornton and Höllerer caution that an exclusive focus on either the micro- or the macro-level might remain only partial, and call for more cross-level studies of institutions – and for understanding the micro and the macro as co-constitutive analytical categories. Finally, the panelists discuss how we could break academic silos in institutional analysis and strive for theoretical innovation through interdisciplinary studies, among other avenues.
Research on institutional logics has missed the opportunity to understand how and why societies may fundamentally differ in their material and symbolic systems. In this…
Research on institutional logics has missed the opportunity to understand how and why societies may fundamentally differ in their material and symbolic systems. In this chapter, the authors offer a qualitative examination of the implementation of infrastructure public–private partnership (PPP) projects in the Arab state of Qatar. The authors illustrate how the macrofoundations of Qatari society are rooted in the notion of tribe, an inter-institutional system under which the intertwined institutional orders of the state, the market, and the family have historically developed and operated. Their study sheds light on how these macrofoundations shape the processes and mechanisms that underpin the resistance to the introduction of innovative organizational forms. The chapter makes two contributions. First, it identifies how “foreign” organizational forms rooted in Western institutional orders trigger adverse reactions from societies characterized by different institutional orders. Second, it demonstrates the challenge of implementing PPPs in an institutional context that is unfavorable to them and where actors seek to preserve the supremacy of the extant inter-institutional system.
In this chapter, the authors adopt a macrofoundations perspective to explore punishment within institutional theory. Institutional theorists have long focused on a single…
In this chapter, the authors adopt a macrofoundations perspective to explore punishment within institutional theory. Institutional theorists have long focused on a single type of punishment – retribution – including the use of sanctions, fines, and incarceration to maintain conformity. The authors expand the types of punishment that work to uphold institutions, organized by visible and hidden, and formal and informal characteristics. The four types of punishment include (1) punishment-as-retribution; (2) punishment-as-charivari; (3) punishment-as-rehabilitation; and (4) punishment-as-vigilantism. The authors develop important connections between punishment-as-charivari, which relies on shaming efforts, and burgeoning interest in organizational stigma and social evaluations. The authors also point to informal types of punishment, including punishment-as-vigilantism, to expand the variety of actors that punish wrongdoing, including actors without the legal authority to do so. Finally, the authors detail a number of questions for each type of punishment as a means to generate a future research agenda.
In this reflective piece, the author engages with several themes that are oriented to the past, present, and future of institutional theory, to offer fresh insights for…
In this reflective piece, the author engages with several themes that are oriented to the past, present, and future of institutional theory, to offer fresh insights for the next generation of theorizing. The author looks backward, tracing prevailing assumptions by investigating the language of theorization over the last eight decades, focusing on the frequency of use of nouns, adjectives, and verbs. What the author finds is a continuing emphasis on relatively static views of institutions and their permanence, indicated by the abundant use of nouns, but a relative neglect of more dynamic processes of institutionalization, reflected in verbs. Leveraging these observations, the author looks ahead, to identify fertile areas for theorization, including a consideration of the antithesis and/or synthesis between relating macrofoundations and microfoundations as antithesis or synthesis; examining the characteristics of institutional fields as contingencies of institutionization; and exploring the language of institutional theorization.
Field emergence poses an intriguing problem for institutional theorists. New issue fields often arise at the intersection of different sectors, amidst extant structures of…
Field emergence poses an intriguing problem for institutional theorists. New issue fields often arise at the intersection of different sectors, amidst extant structures of meanings and actors. Such nascent fields are fragmented and lack clear guides for action; making it unclear how they ever coalesce. The authors propose that provisional social structures provide actors with macrosocial presuppositions that shape ongoing field-configuration; bootstrapping the field. The authors explore this empirically in the context of social impact investing in the UK, 2000–2013, a period in which this field moved from clear fragmentation to relative alignment. The authors combine different computational text analysis methods, and data from an extensive field-level study, to uncover meaningful patterns of interaction and structuration. Our results show that across various periods, different types of actors were linked together in discourse through “actor–meaning couplets.” These emergent couplings of actors and meanings provided actors with social cues, or macrofoundations, which guided their local activities. The authors thus theorize a recursive, co-constitutive process: as punctuated moments of interaction generate provisional structures of actor–meaning couplets, which then cue actors as they navigate and constitute the emerging field. Our model re-energizes the core tenets of new structuralism and contributes to current debates about institutional emergence and change.
The authors discuss the microfoundations of institutional theory, specifically as microfoundations are manifested in this volume of Research in the Sociology of Organizations. The authors argue that the main interest seems to be in better understanding macrofoundations: top-down forces from institutions to actors. Furthermore, throughout the volume institutions themselves are definitionally layered – in problematic ways – with a large array of other macroconstructs, including fields, logics, practices, habitus, situations, routines, and so forth. The authors argue that there is an opportunity to more carefully delineate microfoundations for institutional theory, by focusing on lower-level heterogeneity, agency, as well as the aggregate and emergent social processes that animate microfoundational explanation.
The concept of institution has been used by scholars from across a number of disciplines to explain a wide variety of phenomena. However, the philosophical roots of this…
The concept of institution has been used by scholars from across a number of disciplines to explain a wide variety of phenomena. However, the philosophical roots of this concept have not been well examined, nor have implications for contemporary institutional analysis been fully appreciated. Returning to the works of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty reveals a depth of thinking that has otherwise been overlooked by institutional theorists. In particular, the author’s analysis reveals two critical insights. First, whereas organizational scholars have closely linked the concepts of institution and taken-for-grantedness, these two concepts were originally understood to be phenomenologically distinct. Second, a detailed examination of Merleau-Ponty’s later work poses the concept of flesh – the twining of the visible and the invisible – as the basis for the interplay of institutions. In turn, the idea of flesh as the foundation of institution invites a more radical reimagining of the growing bifurcation between microfoundations and macrofoundations.