A distinguishing feature of comparative institutional analysis is the emphasis on understanding actors and actor constellations. Institutional analysis is concerned with processes of isomorphism and explaining similarities among organizations within an institutional field. This article briefly examines the relation between actors and institutions in economics, political science, and sociology. It demonstrates certain points of agreement – actors and institutions are seen as being mutually constitutive of one another. One implication is the need to adopt a more historical and process-oriented approach to studying institutions. The article explores the non-identical nature of actors in greater detail. It also raises the broader issue of how institutions influence action itself. Given the mutual interdependence of actors and institutions, institutionalization may be seen as a matter of degree. Actors respond to institutions as one element within a situation, but institutional contexts never fully determine action.
This article reviews and assesses the various ways in which the agency/structure dilemma has been dealt with in organization theory. It identifies three major ‘moves’ for attempting to clarify this issue that will not quietly fade into obscurity as a philosophical curiosity properly consigned to the dustbin of intellectual history. First, the reductionist move on the agency/structure dilemma that simply reduces structure to agency or vice versa, but usually the former. Second, the determinist approach to the agency/structure problem that starkly dichotomizes the relationship between them in such a way that each, irreparably divided, side of this ontological/methodological dichotomy necessarily results in either behavioural or structural reification, but usually the latter. Third, the conflationist interpretation of the agency/structure paradox that directly collapses the latter into the former, and consequently treats it as a ‘virtualized reality’ only traceable in ongoing ‘strips’ of social interaction.
Anthony Giddens is one of the most widely cited social theorists in organization studies, but the focus in this chapter is on only a small part of his voluminous output. It considers the influential notion of structuration theory, seeking to place it in the broader intellectual and political context in which Giddens formulated his ideas. It also places structuration in the broader context of Giddens’ overall work. Some criticisms in the domain of social theory are considered, before an exploration of some of the ways in which structuration theory has been used in the study of organizations, with particular emphasis on three areas in which it has been influential: strategy-as-practice, the study of routines, and information systems (IS) research.
This chapter reviews the contribution of Hochschild to organization studies. Hochschild’s analysis of emotional work and emotional labour has opened up new directions in the analysis of organizations, society, and management. Hochschild shows how commodification of aspects of intimate life require the creation of emotional labour where individuals are paid to demonstrate ‘caring qualities’. The contradiction between ‘labour’ as an instrumental activity and ‘caring’ as an aspect of moral collective identity is revealed by Hochschild in a range of organizational settings. As managers try to define and regulate what is an appropriate form of ‘caring’, they set targets and key performance indicators which have the effect of removing the altruistic element of ‘caring’ and replacing it with a form of simulation and acting, sometimes leading to disastrous consequences. By identifying the emotional layer that exists within organizations and occupations, Hochschild has made a fundamental contribution to our understanding.
Beyond Comparative Statics: Historical Institutional Approaches to Stability and Change In the Political Economy of Labor
This article considers the challenges confronting students of political economy in the contemporary period, which can be characterized as the task of moving from the analysis of comparative statics to a more genuinely dynamic model of institutional evolution and change. It considers the strengths and weaknesses of the varieties of capitalism (VoC) and ‘pragmatic constructivist’ (PC) approaches to the study of labour market institutions and political–economic change. The article also makes the case for an alternative historical–institutionalist framework for analysing institutions and institutional change that weaves together key insights from the VoC and PC literatures, but combines these in a way that avoids both the determinism of the former and the indeterminacy of the latter. It concludes by suggesting an agenda for research.
The first part of this chapter shows how critical realism moved from the work of philosopher Roy Bhaskar, to sociology, and social theory and from there to organization studies. While critical realism’s primary concern is ontology, it is not restricted to ontology because the latter influences a chain of meta-theoretical concepts, inter alia, aetiology, epistemology, methodology, research techniques, mode of inference, explanation, prediction, and theory. Parts two and three, therefore, offer critical realist interpretations, and critical evaluations, of two rival ontologies: empirical realism and idealism, and their associated meta-theoretical chains. Part four elaborates upon critical realism’s ontology and its associated meta-theoretical chain. The conclusion exemplifies the arguments of the chapter by showing that differing definitions of organizations are influenced by different underlying ontologies and their associated chain of meta-theoretical concepts.
This chapter presents some perceptions from the development of board processes in large companies over the last 25 years. It studies a series of three ESRC-funded studies about the people side of corporate governance and highlights some relevant changes in the roles and relationships that affect how companies have been, and are presently, run. The chapter also emphasizes some problems identified during these studies and which support corporate directing.
This chapter argues that although little cited in organization studies, Bourdieu’s central concepts have underpinned many areas of interest in the organizational arena. After a brief introduction to the main elements of Bourdieu’s work—his understanding of society as the social space of positions influenced by capital and position-taking, and central concepts of habitus, field, capital, and their links to practice—the chapter addresses applications of his work within organization studies, specifically the use of fields in institutional theory and doxa in institutional logics; his influence in studies of social capital, in practice-based studies and in the strategy as practice literature. It concludes by arguing that his key concepts or ‘thinking tools’ have not been fully developed or integrated into organization studies.
This chapter considers the development of industrial sociology in Britain since the Second World War and its contribution to the study of organizations. It is suggested that there have been three important waves of development, each successive wave mobilizing larger numbers of people and greater resources. The three waves identified and discussed are: early industrial sociology, which was sponsored by government and aspired to be applied; the new sociology of industrial life, which was much broader in scope and focused on the links between workplaces and social structures; and labour process theory, which began with the reanalysis of workplace relationships within a Marxian frame and has more radical values. It is argued that although the different approaches considered have had some differences of outlook and emphasis there is much continuity in the development of the field.
This chapter explores the work of Bruno Latour and its impact on organization theory. Latour’s research is truly transdisciplinary. He combines philosophy, sociology, anthropology, history, semiology, fiction, and arts in his exploration of contemporary ways of life and work under the label of symmetrical anthropology. These excursions to many disciplines within humanities and social sciences were one of the reasons for the popularity of his actor-network theory and sociology of translation among organization researchers. Even if his main interest is science and technology, his studies are always of organizations and organizing. This chapter contains a presentation of Latour’s works that made most impact on organization theory.