Contemporary articles citing Meyer J (1977) Am J Sociol
change, organizations, provides, action, institutional, institutionalism, explain, despite, processes, approach
- Beckert, Jens. 2010. "Institutional Isomorphism Revisited: Convergence and Divergence in Institutional Change." Sociological Theory. 28:2 150-166.
- Under the influence of groundbreaking work by John Meyer and Brian Bowen, as well as Paul DiMaggio and Walter Powell, over the last 30 years research in the new sociological institutionalism has focused on processes of isomorphism. I argue that this is a one-sided focus that leaves out many insights from other institutional and macrosociological approaches and does not do justice to actual social change because it overlooks the role played by divergent institutional development. While the suggestion of divergent trends is not new, there have been Jew attempts to integrate divergence into the theoretical premises of the new sociological institutionalism. Based on the typology proposed by DiMaggio and Powell, I show that the mechanisms identified by them as sources of isomorphic change can support processes of divergent change as well. The theoretical challenge is to identify conditions under which these mechanisms push institutional change toward homogenization or divergence.
- Abrutyn, Seth. 2009. "Toward a General Theory of Institutional Autonomy." Sociological Theory. 27:4 449-465.
- Institutional differentiation has been one of the central concerns of sociology since the days of Auguste Comte. However, the overarching tendency among institutionalists such as Durkheim or Spencer has been to treat the process of differentiation from a macro, ``outside in'' perspective. Missing from this analysis is how institutional differentiation occurs from the ``inside out,'' or through the efforts and struggles of individual and corporate actors. Despite the recent efforts of the ``new institutionalism'' to fill in this gap, a closer look at the literature will uncover the fact that (1) it has tended to conflate macro-level institutions and meso-level organizations and (2) this has led to a taken for granted approach to institutional dynamics. This article seeks to develop a general theory of institutional autonomy; autonomy is a function of the degree to which specialized corporate units are structurally and symbolically independent of other corporate units. It is argued herein that the process by which these ``institutional entrepreneurs'' become independent can explain how institutions become differentiated from the ``inside out.'' Moreover, this article offers five dimensions that can be operationalized, measuring the degree to which institutions are autonomous.
- Rohlinger, Deana. 2007. "American Media and Deliberative Democratic Processes." Sociological Theory. 25:2 122-148.
- Despite the importance of mass media to deliberative democratic processes, few scholars have focused on how market forces, occupational norms, and competition among outlets affect the quality of media discourse in mainstream and political outlets. Here, I argue that field theory, as outlined by new institutionalism and Pierre Bourdieu, provides a useful theoretical framework for assessing the quality of media discourse in different kinds of media outlets. The value of field theory is that it simultaneously highlights the importance of homogeneity and heterogeneity within a field of action, which provides a framework for discussing the roles different kinds of outlets play in deliberate democratic processes and evaluating the quality of discourse in mainstream and political venues. I illustrate the utility of this conceptualization through an analysis of 1,424 stories on abortion in nine U.S. media outlets and interviews with journalists, editors, and producers in these venues. I find that political media outlets provide higher-quality discourse than that of mainstream venues. Additionally, I find that while market pressures may heighten a focus on conflict in the abortion debate, this emphasis is exacerbated by mainstream journalists themselves, who assume that the general public is familiar with, and has taken a firm position on, abortion. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for deliberative democratic processes.
- Schneiberg, Marc & Elisabeth Clemens. 2006. "The Typical Tools for the Job: Research Strategies in Institutional Analysis." Sociological Theory. 24:3 195-227.
- Institutional theory rests on a rejection of reductionism. Instead of reducing higher-order phenomena to aggregates of behavior, institutional theory reverses this causal imagery. It attributes the behavior of organizations and nation-states to contextual factors, notably organizational fields, national institutional systems, or the emerging global polity, Institutionalists, particularly within sociology, also emphasize specifically cultural mechanisms for these higher-order effects. This article develops the methodological foundations for these claims. It surveys and elaborates research designs for documenting higher-order effects and for differentiating the cultural mechanisms of institutional influence. It also presents new strategies for assessing multiple logics and the coherence of institutional orders, moving beyond adoption and diffusion studies to analyze the dynamic and contested processes of institutionalization and institutional change.
- Hallett, T. 2003. "Symbolic Power and Organizational Culture." Sociological Theory. 21:2 128-149.
- With the recent wave of corporate scandals, organizational culture has regained relevance in politics and the media, However, to acquire enduring utility, the concept needs an overhaul to overcome the weaknesses of earlier approaches. As such, this paper reconceptualizes organizational culture as a negotiated order (Strauss 1978) that emerges through interactions between participants, an order influenced by those with the symbolic power to define the situation. I stress the complementary contributions of theorists of,practice (Bourdieu and Swidler) and theorists of interaction (Goffman and Strauss), building upward from practice into interaction, symbolic power, and the negotiated order. Using data from initial reports on the fall of Arthur Andersen and Co., I compare this symbolic power approach to other approaches (culture as subjective beliefs and values or as context/public meaning). The symbolic power model has five virtues: an empirically observable object of study; the capacity to explain conflict and integration; the ability to explain stability and change; causal efficacy; and links between the micro-, meso-, and macrolevels of analysis. Though this paper focuses on organizational culture, the symbolic power model provides theoretical leverage for understanding many situated contexts.
- Fligstein, N. 2001. "Social Skill and the Theory of Fields." Sociological Theory. 19:2 105-125.
- The problem of the relationship between actors and the social structures in which they are embedded is central to sociological theory. This paper suggests that the ``new institutionalist ``focus on fields, domains, or games provides an alternative view of how to think about this problem by focusing on the construction of loca( orders. This paper criticizes the conception of actors in both rational choice and sociological versions of these theories. A more sociological view of action, what is called ``social skill,'' is developed. The idea of social skill originates in symbolic interactionism and is defined as the ability to induct cooperation in others. This idea is elaborated to suggest how actors are important to the construction and reproduction of local orders. I show how, its elements already inform existing work. Finally I show how the idea can sensitize scholars to the role of actors in empirical work.
- Meyer, JW & RL Jepperson. 2000. "The ``actors'' of Modern Society: the Cultural Construction of Social Agency." Sociological Theory. 18:1 100-120.
- Much social theory takes for gr anted the core conceit of modern culture, chat modern actors-individuals, organizations, nation states-are authochthonous and natural entities, no longer really embedded ill culture. Accordingly while there is much abstract metatheory about ``actors `` and their ``agency, `` there is arguably little theory about the topic. This article offers direct arguments about how the modern (European, now global) cultural system constructs the modern actor as an authorized agent for various interests via an ongoing relocation into society of agency originally located in transcendental authority or in natural forces environing the social system. We see this authorized agentic capability as an essential feature of what modern theory and culture call an ``actor,'' and one that, when analyzed, helps greatly in explaining a number of otherwise anomalous ol little analyzed features of modern individuals, organizations, and slates. These features include their isomorphism and standardization, their internal decoupling, their extraordinarily complex structuration, and their capacity for prolific collective action.
- Vallas, SP. 1999. "Rethinking Post-fordism: the Meaning of Workplace Flexibility." Sociological Theory. 17:1 68-101.
- Social scientists increasingly claim that work structures based on the mass production or ``Fordist'' paradigm have grown obsolete, giving way to a more flexible, ``post-Fordist'' structure of work. these claims have been much disputed, however, giving rise to a sharply polarized debate over the outcome of workplace restructuring. I seek to reorient the debate by subjecting the post-Fordist approach to theoretical and empirical critique. Several theoretical weaknesses internal to the post-Fordist approach are identified, including its uncertain handling of ``power'' and ``efficiency'' as factors that shape work organizations; its failure to acknowledge multiple responses to the crisis of Fordism, several of,which seem at odds with the post-Fordist paradigm; and its tendency to neglect the resurgence of economic dualism and disparity within organizations and industries. Review of the empirical literature suggests that, despite scattered support for the post-Fordist approach, important anomalies exist (such as the growing authority of ``mental'' over manual labor) that post-Fordism seems powerless to explain. In spite of its ample contributions, post-Fordist theory provides a seriously distorted guide to the nature of workplace change in the United States. Two alternative perspectives toward the restructuring of work organizations are sketched-neoinstitutionalist and ``flexible accumulation'' models-which seem likely to inspire more fruitful lines of research bn the disparate patterns currently unfolding within American work organizations.