Taking Social Construction Seriously: Extending the ...

Miles A. Zachary TAKING SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION SERIOUSLY: EXTENDING THE DISCURSIVE APPROACH IN INSTITUTIONAL THEORY ABOUT THE AUTHORS Nelson Phillips Professor of Strategy and Organizational Behavior at Imperial College London

Research Interests: Knowledge Management, Technology Strategy, Institutional Theory, Social Entrepreneurship, Management in Cultural Industries, and International Management Namrata Malhotra Faculty member at Tanaka Business School at Imperial College of London Research Interests: Organizational Change, especially within professional service organizations BRIEF HISTORY OF INSTITUTIONALISM

Early institutional works were based in the social construction of institutions institutionalization involves the processes by which social processes, obligations, or actualities, come to take on a rulelike status in social thought and action Meyer & Rowan (1977: p.341) Berger & Luckmann (1967: p.54) referred to institutions as shared typifications of habituated actions by types of actors constructed through social interaction NEW INSTITUTIONAL THEORY

New institutional theory are critical of rational-actor models of organizations Replaced with alternative theory based on individual action, stressing: Unreflective, routine, taken-for-granted nature of humans Actors constituted themselves by institutions Resource dependencies CRITICISMS OF THE NEW INSTITUTIONAL PERSPECTIVE

The authors main criticism involves a lack of definition; modern institutionalism revolves around a result rather than a process This lack of process creates a definitional problem (Zucker, 1991) Taxonomic approach dominates modern institutionalism but ignores the process of institutionalization and the inherent meaning of institutions OLD V. NEW INSTITUTIONAL THEORY Authors idea of the most significant differences

between both involve the underlying conception of cognitive bases of institutionalized behavior Old: organizations are institutionalized when they are infused with value as ends themselves (Selznick, 1957) New: the basis of institutions resides in the taken-forgranted scripts, rules, and classifications In general, there has been a shift from institutions and how they form to the effects of institutionalization SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION

Explains the creation and development of social phenomena within a social context Social construction of institutions has early philosophical roots (e.g., Veblen, 1909; Menger, 1871; Commons, 1924; Sumner, 1906) Menger (1871) acknowledged the importance of institutions, a social phenomenon Later, Selznick (1957: p.16) stated that to institutionalize is to infuse with beyond the technical requirements of the task at hand INSTITUTIONALIZATION

From a social constructionist point of view, institutionalization is primarily cognitive Rules are not externally imposed, rather are a function of social institutional processes Their (the rules) broad acceptability makes them unavoidable Despite an explosion of literature regarding institutional theory, the

definition and processes of institutions DIMAGGIO & POWELLS THREE PILLARS Three (3) Pillars of Isomorphic Change within Institutions: Cognitive Normative Mimetic

Authors critique this view of institutional change as a distraction Regard institutionalization as a taken-forgranted process SCOTTS TYPOLOGY What comprises an institution? Regulatory- explicit regulatory processes expedient and coercive action that is socially sanctioned

Normative- norms shape behavior that is socially enforced Cultural-Cognative- based on early social constructionist thoughtthe way we do things around here An all-inclusive framework for institionalism SCOTTS TYPOLOGY- THE CRITIQUE Author offers several problematic observations:

Individual differences in the ontological background of each pillar is problematic in creating a unified theory of institutionalism The dynamics arising from the three pillars are fundamentally different Sanctions (as presented by Scott (1995)) would serve to deinstitutionalize rather than reinforce institutional norms; Berger and Luckman (1967) regard additional enforcement mechanisms as a sign of less-than-institutional status THE DISCURSIVE ALTERNATIVE Authors offer an alternative to Scotts (1995) explanation of institutionalism A discursive approach is a useful

theoretical and methodological approach for understanding microprocesses of institutionalization at the macro-organizational level and clarifies the cognitive nature of institutions THE DISCURSIVE ALTERNATIVE Discursive analysis serves to answer the question where does meaning come from?

Furthermore, it is a study of discourse and the social reality it constitutes Can never be identified in its entirety, rather it exists on a continuum Texts (which are not limited to written words) are not individually meaningful THE DISCURSIVE ALTERNATIVE Discourse has a dialectic effect on action in which both are a function of the previous variable (t-n) THE DISCURSIVE ALTERNATIVE

Authors ask what are the ramifications for institutional theory? Changing the focus of empirical research Reframing the symbolic v. practice debate Refocuses the processes of institutionalization itself Discourse analysis allows a tandem view of institutionalizationboth practice and symbolic Bringing society back into the picture

Focuses on complex societal nature of institutions and institutionalization OT QUESTIONS Why do organizations exist? Why are firms the same/different? What causes changes in organizations? Why do some firms survive and others dont? Emerging issue?

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