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.
This chapter reviews C. Wright Mills’s analysis of power and the elites of his era in his three major texts of the 1940s and 1950s. It considers elements of his project that often attract less comment: Mills’s search for possible ways of redistributing power and enhancing democracy: his attempt to forge an ethico-political stance in rapidly changing conditions. We reveal Mills’s various intellectual debts, suggesting that he refused a relation of mere imitation to those from whom he borrowed. Considering a variety of criticism of Mills, we reflect on what we might take from Mills today in our own time.
A Capital-Based Approach to the Firm: Reflections on the Nature and Scope of the Concept of Capital and its Extension to Intangibles
This article investigates the nature of human capital (HC) through its relationship to the concept of capital more broadly. It shows that a ‘proper’ understanding of capital suggests that HC is a logical component of the capital structure of the economy and the organizations that comprise it. In contrast to the classical, the neoclassical, and (by implication) the Marxist view of capital, the Austrian view naturally embraces HC and other forms of ‘intangible’ capital such as intellectual and social capital. The relationship of HC to other forms of capital is subtle and is investigated here in some detail. Finally, the article examines how an all-embracing, fundamentally sound understanding of capital provides one with a flexible framework for the examination of a wide-ranging set of issues, including the relationship between production structures and organizational structures, the phenomenon of modularity (in production and organization), and the connection between planning and entrepreneurship.
Janet Porter and Rosalie Hilde
For years, diversity scholars have been calling for more empirical studies that specifically show how linguistic and non-linguistic practices produce asymmetrical differences between and among social groups. To that end, we show that textual analysis methodologies can provide situational, contextual, and empirical research that demonstrates practices and productions of these differences in organizations and workplaces. We further provide researchers with two overlooked approaches of textual analysis methodology that add a multi-level organizational dimension to studying the production of these differences—critical sensemaking and discourse theory. By establishing and maintaining contextual relevance and casting organization as socially constructed on multiple levels, these two approaches help point to systemic-wide strategies for addressing critical organizational, institutional and societal diversity issues such as discrimination or harassment. This chapter will be useful for the diversity researcher who studies linguistic and non-linguistic practices in organizational, institutional, and social formations.
This article first notes the centrality of hierarchy in organizations and asks why it is so persistent and taken for granted. It then briefly considers its organizational and psychological contributions before turning to the social costs it imposes. Having set out some parameters, and the problems associated with hierarchy, the article closes by considering possible alternatives to present forms of hierarchy. It concludes that it is a vital task for students of management and organization to examine such alternatives and the evidence for their efficacy so as to challenge the generally prevailing view that hierarchy, despite its faults, is unavoidable. There is today considerable hand-wringing about hierarchy by those who claim that it is a necessary evil, but who actually have their own reasons to maintain it.
Mitchel Y. Abolafia, Jennifer E. Dodge, and Stephen K. Jackson
When social theory was largely focused on social structure and sociology was in search of objective measures, Clifford Geertz argued for an interpretive social science in search of meaning. He saw language and other symbols as pervasive structures of meaning that allow actors to understand events and guide their action. These symbols are connected in ‘webs of significance’ that are the object of cultural analysis. This chapter begins with a discussion of the key elements in Geertz’s contribution. It goes on to show how Geertz’s versions of culture, interpretivism, and thick description were picked up in organizational studies. It finds the influence strongest among a first wave of early adopters, as part of the surge of organizational culture studies in the 1980s. A second wave of interpretivists was more critical, drawing on postmodernism and institutional theory. Nevertheless, a revitalized interpretivism, deeply indebted to Geertz’s ‘thick description’ continues to evolve.
Stanley Deetz and John G. McClellan
Depending on how one looks at it, communication is a remarkably simple or a perplexingly complex issue in organization and management studies. Communication, for instance, is frequently seen as one of the many things present in organizations along with structures, decision making, workforce direction, leadership, marketing, and so forth – communication as a management tool. It is also often perceived as a ubiquitous mechanism by which each of these activities occurs – communication as a primary means of management operation. Increasingly, however, communication is recognized as the fundamental process by which organizations exist and as central to the critical analysis of their production and reproduction – communication as constitutive of organizations and organizational life. In the twenty-first century, this latter sense of organizational communication is challenging the centrality of organizational psychology held for much of the twentieth century, providing a new focus for those interested in critical management studies.
Glenn Morgan and Peer Hull Kristensen
This chapter examines the impact of research on different forms of capitalism on the field of organization studies. It draws initially on Polanyi’s concept of the ‘double movement’ to identify the relationship between capitalism as a general economic system and capitalisms as institutionally embedded in particular societies. This generates a focus on particular forms of capitalism with distinctive institutional features. The chapter discusses French regulation theory and the varieties of capitalism approach as broad programmes of research which have developed to explore these interactions. It then proceeds to show how these themes have been developed in organization studies, and then how the specific contribution of organization studies has fed back into the wider debate of forms of capitalism.
Simon C. Collinson and Andrew M. Pettigrew
The comparative method lies at the heart of social science research. In the field of international business it is national and regional diversity, the differences between places that influence business activities and management behaviour, that matter. This diversity demands adaptability in individuals and organizations, in response to cultural, social, political, institutional, environmental, economic, industrial, and market variety. This article examines the problems of comparative international research (CIR) in business and management studies. The literature on CIR methods over the past thirty years, whilst stressing the importance of robust methodologies, has been particularly critical of the widespread failure of researchers to avoid the pitfalls of poorly constructed cross-national comparisons.
Contextualizing Men, Masculinities, Leadership, and Management: Gender/Intersectionalities, Local/Transnational, Embodied/Virtual, Theory/Practice
This article focuses mainly on men, masculinities, and leadership, though connections with management are also considered. This emphasis is partly because there has been more critical attention to the gendering of men and masculinities in management than the more specific area of leadership. Following discussion of the broad fields of, first, organization, leadership, and management, and, second, gendering and non-gendering, a personal reflection on this area is used as a prelude to examining recent developments in Critical Studies on men and masculinities. This is followed by discussion of three neglected aspects or absences: gender and intersectionalities; localization and transnationalization; and embodiment and virtualization. The article concludes with remarks on the importance of the relations of theory and practice.
Glenn Morgan and André Spicer
This article examines critical approaches to change, beginning by briefly reviewing existing approaches. It then argues that a critical approach to change is distinctive because it is reflexive, performative, and registers struggles. Next the article provides an account of four key sites of change: identity, organizational processes, fields, and social dynamics. It concludes by outlining some shortcomings in critical accounts of change, and areas for future investigation.