Breaking the Silence: Institutional Theory and Inequality
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA)
University of Cambridge (UK)
University of Oxford & Naval Postgraduate School (UK)
Call for papers
Despite the fact that institutional theorists from Weber and Simmel to Selznick and Goffman emphasized power and conflict of interest within organizations, this emphasis has been muted in the 'new' institutionalisms. Westwood and Clegg (2003, p. 208) note that, 'Institutional theory has proven to be a particularly fecund perspective on organization theorizing in recent times.' That said, they and many other researchers see opportunity and unfulfilled research potential for the available organizational and related institutionalisms. For instance, these scholars point to the neglect of power and domination in all of its forms and consequences in the existing research (Khan, Munir & Willmott, 2007). In most accounts of institutional change, discussions of 'power' remain implicit and the conception of 'power' is often coarse-grained. Similarly, questions of the how organizations affect and are affected by the pattern of privilege and disadvantage in society have little prominence in contemporary organizational institutionalism. Reconnecting organizational analysis to the analysis of societal inequality and social change (Hardy & Clegg, 2004; Scott 1994; Stern & Barley, 1996; Zald, 2002; Lounsbury, Ventresca & Hirsch, 2003) promises renewal of organizational theory, in general, and institutional theories of organization, in particular.
In inviting submissions to this sub-theme, we emphasize that institutional theory needs to embrace the institutional and political complexity of organizational life and to theorize about the inequality that pervades it. Here we are eager to encourage the development of institutional conceptions of power, in addition to more standard conceptions of power such as resource dependence, social exchange, and the like. And, we look forward to research on inequality that explores institutional models of privilege along with more standard approaches to stratification and the study of work, occupations, and organizations. Companion literatures in studies of ideology and in the work of postmodern, feminist, poststructuralist, political sociology, and social movement theorists may well be joined with institutional analysis to generate fresh, robust constructs and processual understandings of power and inequality. We invite researchers to submit both theoretical and empirical work that grapples with issues of power, inequality, and institutional change. We are also interested in methodological approaches and a concern with mechanisms.
Specifically, we are interested in papers that explore the ways that inequality is generated, reinforced and challenged in ‘local’ and ‘global’ organized fields of activity, including (but not limited to):
- The organizational and other mechanisms by which regimes of privilege get built, transformed, and destroyed/supplanted
- The implications of emerging organizational forms for the distribution of power and privilege in society
- The creation and persistence of multilateral agencies (such as the World Bank or the United Nations) and other global initiatives (e.g. GAVI or Global Fund in health policy, World Social Forum, social movements for social finance, codes of conduct on child labor and other industry self-regulation) and their impact on specific policy domains and processes, as well as the cumulative impact of such global organizing
- The dynamics that explain when and how less powerful members of a field challenge more powerful ones
- The unintended consequences of 'institutional entrepreneurship' and 'attention work' that are crucial for institutional change processes but that often go unreported or unnoticed
- The hegemonic role of technological regimes, and also studies that explore technological paths 'not taken' and related issues of the erosion or invisibility of alternative (social) technologies.
We are also interested in papers that explore the ways that inequality is generated, reinforced, and challenged in microsociological processes, including:
- When and how less powerful organizational members individually or collectively challenge institutional arrangements?
- When and how powerful organizational members create and defend institutional arrangements that sustain their power?
- The development of institutional conceptions of challenge and resistance that occur within organizations.
Finally, we are interested in inequality in institutional research as social practice. Thus we invite papers that explore such issues as:
- Silences of all sorts in institutional analysis, and arguments that develop the theoretical, and potentially the policy value, of specifying these silences and gaps in the practice of institutional theories or organization, how they have developed, and what is neglected or ignored by these.
- The evolution of institutional theory and its engagement with 'critical' studies over time.
- The evolution of particular methodologies in institutional studies, along with the absence of other available methodologies.
The above descriptions are guidelines for potential submissions, not limits. We enthusiastically welcome research which, if not specifically on these topics, relevantly extends the engagement of institutional theories of organizations/organizing and inequality.
About the convenors
Kate Kellogg is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in Organization Studies area at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Her research focuses on institutional change, with particular attention to micro-level dynamics. Her current project is a comparative ethnography of two organizations responding to a new regulation of surgical practice. She examines how differences in forms of collective action on the part of challengers and defenders inside of organizations result in variation in organizational response to institutional pressure.
Kamal Munir received his PhD from McGill University in 2001, and since then has been teaching strategy and organization theory at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. His principal interest lies in institutional persistence and change. In this context, he is currently involved in (a) exploring the dynamics of institutional change in the photography and online news fields and (b) investigating the unintended consequences of the campaign to eliminate child labour in Pakistan. Dr. Munir serves on the editorial board of Organization Studies. He has also recently formed the Organization Theory Research Group, which spans several UK universities.
Marc J. Ventresca teaches technology strategy and organization theory at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. His research uses strategy, economic sociology, and cultural institutionalism to understand industry emergence, innovation, and entrepreneurial activity in knowledge-intensive industries. Current research projects investigate the shifting conceptions of 'services' in the statistical frameworks of the modern economy, on governance reforms in the 'ancient' universities of Sienna, Uppsala, and Oxford, and on governance innovations and new business models in the global field of financial markets. Dr Ventresca is a Fellow of Wolfson College and a University Fellow of the Martin Institute for Science and Civilization at Oxford, and he is affiliated with the Naval Postgraduate School.. He is currently co-editing Ideology and Institutions, a volume of Research in the Sociology of Organizations.