Field Structuration Processes

1. Multiple Levels

As described in Chapter 4, Giddens (1979; 1984) defines the con- cept of structuration quite broadly to refer to the recursive interdepen- dence or social structures and activities. The verb form is intended to remind us that structures exist only to the extent that actors engage in ongoing activities to produce and reproduce, or change them. In applying the concept to organization fields, DiMaggio and Powell (1983; DiMaggio 1983) employ the term field structuration more nar- rowly to refer to the extent of interaction and the nature of the inter- organizational structure that arises at the field level. As noted earlier, the indicators proposed to assess structuration include the extent to which organizations in a field interact and are confronted with larger amount of information to process, the emergence of “interorganiza- tional structures of domination and patterns of coalition,” and the development of “mutual awareness among participants in a set of organizations that they are engaged in a common enterprise” (DiMaggio 1983: 148). To these indicators, others can be added, including extent of agreement on the institutional logics guiding activities within the field or on the issues around which participants are engaged, increased isomorphism of structural forms within popu- lations in the field (i.e., organizations embracing a limited repertoire of archetypes and employing a limited range of collective activities), increased structural equivalence of organizational sets within the field, and increased clarity of field boundaries (see Scott 1994a; Scott et al. 2000: Ch. 10).

Earlier I stressed the important locus of the organization field as an intermediate unit between, at micro levels, individual actors and orga- nizations and, at macro levels, systems of societal and trans-societal actors. Figure 8.1 depicts a generalized multilevel model of institu- tional forms and flows. Trans-societal or societal institutions provide a wider institutional environment within which more specific institu- tional fields and forms exist and operate, and these, in turn, provide contexts for particular organizations and other types of collective actors, which themselves supply contexts for subgroups and for indi- vidual actors. Various top-down processes—constitutive activities, diffu- sion, translation, socialization, imposition, authorization, inducement, imprinting (see Scott 1987)—allow “higher-level” (more encompass- ing) structures to shape, both constrain and empower, the structure and actions of “lower-level” actors. But simultaneously, counter-processes are at work by which lower-level actors and structures shape—reproduce and change—the contexts within which they operate. These bottom- up processes include, variously, selective attention, interpretation and sense-making, identity construction, error, invention, conformity and reproduction of patterns, compromise, avoidance, defiance, and manip- ulation (see Oliver 1991). Research by Schneiberg and Soule (2005) on the changing forms of rate regulation of fire insurance by several U.S. states during the beginning of the 20th century depicts policies resulting from “contested, multilevel” processes as competing regimes developed in different regions of the country. Forces at work in crafting a “middle way,” which subsequently became widely adopted, included within-state differences in the power of relevant associations, attention to policies adopted by neighboring states, and decisions at the national level by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Early institutional sociologists emphasized top-down processes, focusing on the ways in which models, menus, and rules constitute and constrain organization-level structures and processes. Institutional economists and rational choice political scientists continue to focus on bottom-up processes as actors pursue their interests by designing insti- tutional frameworks that solve collective action problems or improve the efficiency of economic exchanges. These scholars have now been joined by social movement researchers whose views considerably expand the types of actors, motives, and actions engaged in institu- tional change. Also, more recent work by a broad range of sociologists and management scholars, described in Chapter 4, has stressed the importance of attending to “institutional work” as actors strive to either reproduce, challenge, or change existing structures. In addition, other scholars emphasize the interweaving of top-down and bottom-up processes as they combine to influence institutional phenomena (Powell and Colyvas 2008). For example, we previously discussed the studies by Edelman and associates (Edelman 1992; Edelman et al. 1999) and Dobbin and associates (Dobbin 2009; Dobbin and Sutton 1998; Dobbin, Sutton, Meyer, and Scott 1993), who explore how top-down regulative processes initiated by federal agents trigger collective sense-making processes among personnel managers, who construct new structures and procedures that are reviewed and, eventually, authorized by the federal courts. Regulative (federal laws), normative (professional managerial codes), and cognitive (sense-making) processes are con- nected in complex and changing mixtures.

Figure 8.1 Top-Down and Bottom-Up Process of Institutional Creation and Diffusion

SOURCE: Adapted from Scott 1994c (Figure 3.1, p. 37).

In formulating a recursive, iterative model of institutional change, Holm (1995) proposes that it is helpful in examining the processes con- necting adjacent levels to distinguish between two nested types of processes: “practical” versus “political” actions. The former are actions taken within a given framework of understandings, norms, and rules, serving to reproduce the institutional structure or, at most, stimulate incremental changes. The latter, political processes are actions whose purpose is to change the rules or frameworks governing actions. For example, explicit rules govern the activities of professional sports teams, but from time to time, team representatives and officials meet to review and make alterations in the rules based on accumulated experi- ences or specific problems encountered. While in some cases changes in rules are based on collective mobilization and conflict, in many orga- nized systems formal structures are in place to support routine reviews of and revisions in rule systems. The creation of such formalized decision-making and governance systems serves to institutionalize the process of institutional change.

2. Widening Theoretical Frameworks

In addition to employing more multilevel and recursive models in institutional studies, institutional scholars have begun to widen their theoretical frames, taking advantage of ideas and approaches devel- oped in related areas. I have already discussed, in Chapter 6, the con- structive connections being developed between students of the legal environment and institutionalists. Edelman and Suchman (1997) distinguish three dimensions of legal environments relevant to organi- zational studies. Legal systems offer a “facilitative” environment, supplying tools, procedures and forums that actors can employ to pursue goals, resolve disputes, and control deviant and criminal behavior within and by organizations (see Sitkin and Bies 1994; Vaughn 1999). They provide a “regulatory” environment consisting of a set of “substantive edicts, invoking societal authority over various aspects of organizational life” (Edelman and Suchman 1997: 483; see also Noll 1985). And, most fatefully, they offer a “constitutive” environment that “constructs and empowers various classes of organizational actors and delineates the relationships among them” (Edelman and Suchman 1997: 483; see also Scott 1994c). Edelman and Suchman suggest that we need much more research on the ways in which constitutive legal processes function to construct interorganizational relations (e.g., tort law, bankruptcy law), construct distinctive forms of organization struc- ture (e.g., corporate law), and contribute to an underlying cultural logic of “legal-rationality.”

Another rapidly developing intersection, noted earlier, is that between social movement theory and institutional change. For many years, social movement theory has productively borrowed from orga- nizational theory as Mayer Zald, John McCarthy, Charles Tilly, and others showed us how collective movements, if they were to be sus- tained, required the mobilization of resources and leadership to create social movement organizations (Zald and Ash 1966). And as numerous movement organizations pursued similar types of reforms, they identi- fied social movement industries or fields within which such similar organizations competed, cooperated, and learned from each other (McCarthy and Zald 1977). Social movements have become more orga- nized, and as the more nimble and flexible newer forms of organiza- tions become more movement-like, the flow of ideas between the two fields has increased apace as institutional scholars learn from social movement scholars (Davis et al. 2005).

Among their contributions to institutional theory, social movement scholars have called attention to the openings and opportunities pro- vided to suppressed groups and interests by the contradictions or inconsistencies in political institutions or governance structure, the mobilizing processes that give rise to new kinds of organizations, and the reframing processes that involve the creative construction of new meanings and identities enabling new possibilities for collective action (McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald 1996: 2–3; McAdam and Scott 2005: 14–19; Schneiberg and Lounsbury 2008; Snow, Soule, and Kriesi 2004). All of these ideas are brought to bear by Elisabeth Clemens (1993; 1997) in her analysis of women’s political groups at the turn of the 20th century in the United States. Lacking access to normal forms of politi- cal action (the right to vote), they “adapted existing nonpolitical mod- els of organization for political purposes” (Clemens 1993: 758). The repertoire of collective action—the “set of organizational models that are culturally or experientially available” for women at this time and place—included unions, clubs, and associations. Employing these con- ventional models in unconventional ways mobilized around new pur-poses led to significant institutional change.

At the institutional level, women’s groups were central to a broader reworking of the organizational framework of American politics: the decline of competitive political parties and electoral mass mobilization followed by the emergence of a governing sys- tem centered on administration, regulation, lobbying, and legisla- tive politics. (Clemens 1993: 760)

A neglected area of study has been the processes at work in the transitional period during which successful movement objectives are “handed off” to legislatures and public agencies for follow-through and implementation. In our study of advocacy groups for youth devel- opment in urban areas, we have observed the ways in which issues and objectives are reframed and revised as the action moves “from the streets to the suites” (McLaughlin, Scott, Deschenes, Hopkins, and Newman 2009).

Institutional theory will benefit greatly by continuing to cultivate connections with law and society scholars and with social move- ments theorists, as well as with other rapidly developing research communities, such as network theorists (Nohria and Eccles 1992; Smith-Doerr and Powell 2005), students of society and accounting (Hopwood and Miller 1994), economic sociology (Dobbin 2004; Smelser and Swedberg 1994; 2005), technical and institutional inno- vation (Hargrave and Van de Ven 2006; Van de Ven and Garud 1986), and international and comparative management (Ghoshal and Westney 1993; Guillén 2001b; Hofstede 1991; House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, and Gupta 2004; Miller and Lessard 2000; Peng 2003; Scott et al. 2011). All of these communities can bring theoretical insights and useful methodologies to our understanding of institutions and institutional change processes.

3. Selected Studies of Field Structuration

Evolving Corporate Structures

We can better understand some of the forces and mechanisms at work in field-level change processes if we approach them as they were observed in a few studies of particular fields operating in specific times and places. We begin by revisiting Neil Fligstein’s study (1990; 1991) of changes in the structure of large U.S. corporations during the 20th century (see Chapter 7). This research is particularly effective in pursu- ing three aspects of field structuration: the interplay of (1) private power and public authority, (2) ideas and interests, and (3) field logics and internal organization processes. We review each.

Recall that Fligstein’s study examined a (changing) sample of the 100 largest nonfinancial corporations during the period 1920 to 1980. These companies became increasingly diversified throughout this period, but the diversification strategies varied over time, in part due to changing federal antitrust policies.

Whereas Alfred Chandler’s (1977) detailed history of changes in corporate structure stresses the role of market forces and managerial strategic decisions, as described in Chapter 5, Fligstein reminds us of the power of the nation-state, not only to ratify institutional settlements enforced by the dominant companies in an industry, but also to estab- lish and change the general rules governing competitive practices and growth strategies for all firms. For Fligstein (2001a) markets are not simply arenas of competition but organization fields whose members, in combination with state agencies, attempt to produce a social world stable enough that they can sell [their] goods and services at a price at which their organization will sur- vive. Managing people and uncertain environments to produce stability is a sizable task. The theory of fields implies that the search for stable interactions with competitors, suppliers, and workers is the main cause of social structures in markets. (p. 18)

Fields are vehicles for producing some stability and order for their members.

As for the interplay of ideas and interests, Fligstein (2001a: 15–20), more than most analysts, employs what he terms a “political-cultural” approach melding the role of cultural-cognitive elements or interpre- tive frameworks with the play of power among actors struggling to achieve a “system of domination” that will serve their interests. Fields are arenas for the interplay of contests between incumbents, who ben- efit from existing arrangements, and challengers, who seek to change the rules to advance their own interests. Governments, which can be conceived as a “set of fields,” interact with markets, another set of fields, imposing rules to help insure stability.

Fligstein asserts that the changing strategies reflect changing insti- tutional logics regarding competitive practices and growth strategies. But what is the process by which field logics result in organizational change? One obvious mechanism is environmental selection: firms not pursuing the favored strategy were more likely to drop out of the sample of largest corporations over time, particularly during the later period (Fligstein 1991: 328). Another mechanism explored by Fligstein is that changes in field logics trigger political processes within organiza- tions so that corporations changed the criteria used to select their CEO. Fligstein (1991) categorizes CEOs in terms of their background under the assumption that a manufacturing person will tend to see the organization’s prob- lems in production terms, a sales and marketing person will tend to view the nature, size and extent of the market as critical to orga- nizational survival, and a financial person will see the basic profit- ability of firm activities as crucial. (p. 323)

Empirically, he shows that the hiring of a CEO with a manufactur- ing background was associated with the subsequent adoption of a “dominant” strategy focusing on a single market; the hiring of a CEO from a sales background was associated with the adoption of a strat- egy of diversification into related markets; and the hiring of a CEO with a financial background was associated with the adoption of a strategy of diversification into both related and unrelated markets. As we have discussed, Greenwood and Hinings (1996) generalize these arguments by embracing Cyert and March’s (1963) conception of orga- nizations as coalitions of participants holding varying interests. Changes in field logics are likely to be viewed as advancing the inter- ests of some types of organizational participants and as undercutting those of others. In this manner they propose to link the “old” institu- tionalism that focused more on power processes within organizations (think Selznick) with the “new” institutionalism that stresses field- level templates and logics.

Destructuration of a Health Care Field

My colleagues and I (Scott et al. 2000) elected to study health care delivery in the United States because this appeared to represent an instance of a relatively settled and stable institutional arena which, in the past few decades, has become increasingly unstable and conflicted. For our primary empirical data, we focused on changes in health care delivery systems within a limited geographic area—the San Francisco Bay area—but in accounting for these developments we included actors and forces at state and national levels. Data were collected to cover a 50-year period, from 1945 to 1995.

In order to empirically capture changes in the field, we selected three components on which to gather date:

  • changes over time in the types and numbers of social actors—both individual (roles) and collective actors (organizations) 

For example, we measured changes in the number and types (specialties) of physicians, changes in the membership of leading professional associations, and changes in the major organizational forms (archetypes) comprising the delivery systems, including physi- cian groups, hospitals, home health agencies, health maintenance orga- nizations (HMOs), renal dialysis units, and integrated healthcare sys- tems. We also assessed changing relational connections among these various forms, such as clinics and home health agencies contracting with hospitals or hospitals joining integrated healthcare systems (Scott et al. 2000: Ch. 3).

I can think of no better single indicator for assessing change in an organization field than tracking changes in the number and types of organizations that operate within its boundaries. Organization arche- types are critical aspects of the field’s “structural vocabulary.” During the period of our study, the number and size of medical clinics, home health agencies, HMOs, and specialized treatment units such as dialy- sis centers expanded greatly, while the overall number and size of hospitals remained relatively stable. Given that the population of the region more than tripled during this time, the lack of expansion in hospitals, the traditional delivery unit, indicates that they were being displaced by other types of organizations. Of equal significance are the new types of organizations that emerged. Newcomers such as home health agencies, staffed largely by nurses who deliver care in patients’ homes, and HMOs, which were designed to ensure that physicians are financially at risk for failing to control costs incurred by the care they prescribe, represent radically different approaches to health care deliv- ery. These forms embodied novel organizational archetypes that chal- lenge earlier models.

Of course, it is possible for existing organizations to change their archetype, substituting one template or “interpretive scheme” for another, as Greenwood and Hinings (1993) as well as Fligstein (1990) have demonstrated. However, both of these studies focused attention on a single population of organizations, municipal governments or large corporations. A distinctive advantage of field-level designs is that they widen the lens, allowing researchers to observe the rise of new forms that challenge, and sometime replace, existing forms. And although it appears that we are interested primarily in structural and relational changes—merely counting organizations—we are in fact attending to the constitutive work of changing cultural-cognitive beliefs as reflected in the organization archetypes.

  • changes over time in the institutional logics that guide activities in the field

Multiple indicators were employed to ascertain changes in logics, including changing patterns in the financing of health care,3 changes in public policy at the state and federal levels, changes in consumer beliefs regarding health care, and changes in professional discourse as revealed by a textual analysis of articles appearing in physician- oriented and health care administration journals (Scott et al. 2000: Ch. 6). The use of such archival sources to reveal changes over time in the meaning structures employed to interpret and guide actions of field participants provides a promising avenue for assessing the codepen- dence of cultural and structural elements (Ventresca and Mohr 2002).

Composite indicators suggest that three contrasting institutional logics were dominant during different periods. Up to the mid-1960s, the dominant logic was an overriding concern with quality of care as defined and assessed by medical providers. In the mid-1960s, this logic was joined with a political logic emphasizing improved equity of access—the defining event being the passage of Medicare-Medicaid legislation in 1965. Somewhat later, in the early 1980s, yet another logic was introduced emphasizing the importance of cost containment mea- sures employing both market and managerial controls. None of the three logics—each of which was associated with differing types of actors— succeeded in replacing the others. The unresolved contradictions and conflicts among these logics have greatly reduced the coherence and stability of field structure.

  • changes in governance structures that oversee field activities

As defined earlier in this chapter, governance structures are combi- nations of public and private, formal and informal systems that exer- cise control within the field. During the period of our study, dramatic changes were observed in the kinds of actors exercising control and in the mechanisms employed. During the first half of the 20th century, the health care delivery field was firmly under the control of a hegemonic professional group—doctors of medicine. Having warded off a variety of rival claimants for jurisdiction over the field (see Starr 1982), subor- dinated a variety of ancillary groups (see Freidson 1970), and secured the backing of the several U.S. states exercising their licensure power, the medical establishment ruled by moral authority, exercising norma- tive control, reinforced by state power, over the field.

As already described, by the mid-1960s fragmentation of physician interests and the coming to power of the Democrats resulted in the pas- sage of the Medicare-Medicaid legislation, which overnight made the federal government the largest single purchaser of acute care and hos- pital services. Paying for a substantial proportion of the bills—which resulted in increasing demands—public authorities became more and more active in regulating health services. The number of health-related regulatory bodies operating at county, state, and national levels gov- erning the Bay Area grew from a handful in 1945 to well over 100 agencies (Scott et al. 2000: 198). The normative power of the medical establishment, while weakened, remained in force but was now joined by public regulative powers.

Beginning in the early 1980s, new approaches to cost containment were introduced based on neoliberal economic assumptions regarding the effectiveness of more businesslike and market-based approaches. For-profit delivery systems were endorsed featuring stronger manage- rial controls, and incentives were employed to encourage patients to consume fewer services and providers to restrict treatments. New “health plans” emerged to define benefits, collect payments, and enlist panels of eligible providers. Thus, added to the mix of professional and public controls were private market and managerial governance mechanisms (Scott et al. 2000: 217–235).

Some time ago, Meyer and I argued that it is useful to view an organization’s legitimacy as varying by the extent of coherence in the cultural environment underlying it—“the adequacy of an organization as theory. A completely legitimate organization would be one about which no question may be raised” (Meyer and Scott 1983a: 201; emphasis in original). From this perspective, given the inconsistency of views regarding healthcare expressed by professional, public, and private oversight authorities, the legitimacy of health care systems has mark- edly declined in this country during the past half-century. This is rep- resented not only in the overelaborated and complex administrative units at the organizational level required to respond to the multiple and conflicting demands, but also in the overgrown jungle of financial and regulatory units and infrastructural apparatus—lawyers, accoun- tants, health economists, actuaries, and insurance brokers—that con- tribute so much to the costs and confusion marking the current state of this field.

Similar Pressures—Divergent Responses

Nicole Biggart and Mauro Guillén (1999) examined the response of auto industries of four countries—South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, and Argentina—to mounting competitive pressures from the global envi- ronment (see also Guillén 2001b). For many decades, manufacturing fields serviced primarily domestic markets and did not have to take into account the productivity or performance of similar fields in other countries. However, in recent decades as a result of numerous political, technological, and economic developments, formerly “local” indus- tries have been compelled to compete for survival with distant produc- ers (Albrow 1997; Berger and Huntington 2002; Ó Riain 2000).

Biggart and Guillén (1999) employ an institutional approach to their study, emphasizing the following:

  • the different kinds of actors available in each society (e.g., nature of the state, kinship structures, large firms, small firms, business networks)
  • the “pattern of social organization that binds actors to one another” (e.g., the relation of states to industrial firms, of large to small firms, of firms to business networks) (p. 723)
  • the organizing logics characteristic of the society: “organizing logics are not merely constraints on the unfolding of otherwise unimpeded social action, but rather are repositories of distinc- tive capabilities that allow firms and other economic actors to pursue some activities in the global economy more successfully than others” (p. 726)
  • the industrial policies pursued by the state; nation-states vary in the development policies they adopt as well as in how actively they intervene in economic matters

Employing a distinction developed by Gereffi (2005), Biggart and Guillén note that societies characterized by more vertical linkages between strong states and firms or between large firms and subordi- nate units are more likely to excel at “producer-driven” activities linked to the global economy, whereas economies comprising small firms connected by horizontal linkages are more nimble and hence can be more responsive to “buyer-driven” global demands. Thus, for example, South Korea, with its vertically integrated chaebol (business units) and strong state has been relatively successful in auto assembly (producer-driven) operations but much less successful in creating a competitive system of components manufacturers. By contrast, Taiwan, with its highly developed small firms economy was unresponsive to state initiatives to promote auto assembly plants and instead has been able to compete globally in its manufacture of (buyer-driven) com- ponents. It is also possible for states to bypass their own business community and allow “foreign actors unrestricted access to the country” by encouraging foreign firms to make investments and establish direct ownership ties (Guillén 2001b: 17). This was the policy pursued by Spain. Biggart and Guillén (1999: 743) do not conclude that all strategies pursued are equally successful, but rather that the more successful strategies are those that build on a society’s existing insti- tutional logics. Such differences are not obstacles or constraints, but “the very engine of development. Development is about finding a place in the global economy, not about convergence or the suppression of difference.”

In short, we have here a situation parallel to that described in Chapter 7, where we considered the reaction of organizations with dif- fering characteristics to similar institutional forces. Like organizations, organization fields are likely to vary substantially in their history, structural features, and capacities so that, when confronted by similar challenges, they are likely to respond not in parallel but divergent ways. This institutionally informed perspective varies considerably from that of a number of global observers, who emphasize the “flatten- ing” of societal differences (Freidman 2005) or the rapid convergence of economic institutions and firm structures (McKenzie and Lee 1991) as the hallmark of globalization. Gray (2005) points out that, in this respect, such neoliberal arguments bear a close relation to earlier Marxist arguments since they assume that “it is technological advances that fuels economic development, and economic forces that shape society. Politics and culture are secondary phenomena.” Institutional- ists take strong exception to this view.

Identity-Based Fields

Two studies nicely illustrate the ways in which organization fields form around “identity logics.” Armstrong (2002) studied the processes leading to the creation of a field of gay/lesbian organizations in San Francisco during the period 1950 to 1994. Early groups attempting to advance gay/lesbian causes, such as the Mattachine Society, borrowed their organizing template from public nonprofit organizations and functioned as conventional interest groups. During the 1970s, organiz- ing models shifted to “identity politics” as groups embraced explicit sexual identity terminology, affirming gay identity often combined with a specific function (e.g., Digital Queers, Gay Democratic Club, Lesbians in Law). “Affirming gay identity and celebrating diversity replaced social transformation as goals, marking the origins of a gay identity movement” (Armstrong 2002: 371). The organizing template that was adopted featured developing occasions for identity display and self-expression; modes of organizing favored small, informal, and egalitarian units over more bureaucratic or professionalized forms. One of the more vivid images in the literature on organization fields is Armstrong’s description of the colorful spectacle presented by the members of this organization field “on parade” during the gay rights celebration in San Francisco.

Like Armstrong, Rao, Monin, and Durand (2003) creatively com- bine social movement and institutional theory arguments in a study of “revolutionary” changes occurring in the world of French haute cuisine. The study examines the introduction by a rebel breed of chefs of a new culinary rhetoric, replacing classic with nouvelle cuisine. The upstart chefs emerged during the period of general political turmoil associated with student protests against the Vietnam War during 1968, a cause that rapidly became connected to a range of other anti-establishment grievances. I like to think the organizing slogan for this revolution was “Chefs of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your sauces!” Rao and colleagues suggest that the two cuisines—classic and nouvelle—represent differing institutional logics (rules of cooking, types of ingredients, bases for naming dishes) as well as contrasting identities for chefs in relation to waiters. Their imaginative method of tracking the progress of the new logic was to examine changes over time in the menus of leading restaurants, coding a random sample of the signature dishes of chefs between the years 1970 and 1997.

Both Armstrong and Rao and colleagues draw on a distinction in social movement theory between “interest group” and “identity poli- tics.” Most studies of social movements focus on interest groups pursuing some instrumental goal, for example, increased fairness or equality, whereas identity movements seek opportunities for “authentic” self- expression and opportunities to celebrate and display “who we are.” Identity movements seek autonomy, not social justice (Armstrong 2002; Taylor and Whittier 1992). Employing historical materials as well as in-depth interviews, Rao and colleagues examine biographies of selected chefs who personally challenged existing rules—in some cases, rules embraced by their fathers—in order to convert to the new cuisine. However, for such ideas to diffuse into a movement, they needed to be “theorized” (see Chapter 6). This process was greatly facilitated by the media and by the specialized culinary jour- nalists, who developed the “10 commandments”—including “thou shall not overcook,” “thou shall use fresh quality products”—guiding the new cuisine and advancing rationales for its adoption. Systematic counts of the number of articles published between 1970 and 1997 extolling nouvelle cuisine in culinary magazines—cultural-cognitive legitimation—were found to correlate with adoption by chefs listed in annual directories of Guide Michelin.

Evidence concerning the normative legitimation of the movement came from two sources: the number of highly coveted stars from the Guide Michelin received by chefs who added a minimum of one nou- velle cuisine dish as part of his or her signature trio of dishes and the number of nouvelle cuisine activists elected to the executive board of the professional society of French chefs. Both were positively associ- ated with the abandonment of classical for nouvelle cuisine. In short, the new logic was eventually endorsed by the relevant governance systems.

A particularly valuable aspect of this study by Rao and associates is its recognition of the important role played by intermediary actors in field structuration. The contributions of journalists who helped focus and frame and diffuse the new logic as well that of influential arbiters of consumer tastes—the editors of Guide Michelin—who gave their all-important stamp of approval to the insurgent band of chefs are sys- tematically incorporated in the design of the study.

The Structuring of Biotech Clusters

Walter Powell and his many collaborators have examined the ori- gins and early structuring processes of biotechnology clusters in the United States during the period 1988 to 2004 (Powell, Koput, and Smith-Doerr 1996; Powell and Owen-Smith 2012; Powell, Packalen, and Whittington 2012; Powell and Sandholtz 2012). Their study design is unusual in that their sample includes 661 biotech firms worldwide and their more than 3,000 partners. They focus on the origins—in their terms, the “emergence”—of successful biotech clusters in the United States, asking why three regional clusters have been so successful com- pared to firms in other areas. Their approach relies heavily on network approaches due to the fact that networks are an essential ingredient in this arena because all of the relevant capabilities required are rarely found within a single organization or type of organization.

Three clusters—localized organization fields—were most success- ful in forming during this period: the San Francisco Bay area took the lead in the 1970s and 1980s, the Boston area came later in the 1990s, and the San Diego area developed more slowly and somewhat later. The investigators argue that these more successful clusters emerged because of (1) a rich mixture of diverse organizations, including uni- versities, nonprofit research centers, research hospitals, start-up com- panies, and venture capitalists; (2) the presence of an “anchor tenant,” an organization possessing “the legitimacy to engage with and catalyze others in ways that facilitate the extension of collective resources”; and (3) some form of cross-network mechanism to enable “ideas and mod- els to be transmitted from one domain to another” (Powell, Packalen, and Whittington 2012: 439).

No single model of successful field creation was revealed by the three cases; multiple recipes were employed. Thus, the identity of the anchor tenant varied from case to case: In San Francisco, cluster forma- tion was heavily influenced by the matchmaking efforts of venture capitalists; in Boston, public research organizations, including univer- sities and research institutions, provided significant leadership; and in San Diego, biotech firms, both small start-ups and mature firms, were the most instrumental. In San Diego, a failed acquisition effort between an established firm and a new firm fueled job mobility and information sharing in the area. In all cases, the anchor tenants were able to gener- ate the new types of organizations—hybrid forms—that permitted “boundary crossing”: the mixing of institutional logics and practices that allowed the translation of ideas from one realm, basic science, to another, the creation of commercial products. Science and commerce were lashed together in diverse ways as career flows triggered disrup- tion: “Moving energy from one realm into another, or converting repu- tations and resources in one domain into motivating energy in a new arena, unlocked existing social bonds and expectations, creating space for a new form” (Powell and Sandholtz 2012: 407).

Regional agglomeration occurred in the three successful clusters because of successful collaborations that developed across a diverse array of organization forms. By contrast, in the eight less successful regions examined, single organization forms dominated, resulting in a mixture less capable of spawning successful collaborations among organizations, let alone new organizational forms.

The research by Powell and colleagues differs from previous field studies in part because of the changing nature of organizations and industries. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, fields were struc- tured around some focal organizational populations (e.g., healthcare organizations) or an occupation (e.g., gourmet chefs). Students of new industries emerging during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, by contrast, have been compelled to focus on a diverse field of interde- pendent organizations; no one organization contains the requisite know-how and skills to determine the trajectory of field structure and development. Rather, the focus has been on industrial regions (e.g., Saxenian 1994) and related types of networked systems (Smith- Doerr and Powell 2005). Moreover, in a time of global competition and rapidly changing demand structures, even more conventional indus- tries, long dominated by Fordist-style, vertically integrated organiza- tions, are being decomposed in favor of a variety of networked forms and flexible commodity- and value-chain production systems (Gereffi 2005; Harrison 1994).

4. Thinking Across Fields

A common theme in research on organization fields is the move- ment of ideas and modes of organizing from one field to another. Fields are never self-contained; they are always subfields of larger societal systems and, particularly in contemporary societies, are obliged to a varying extent to take into account the ideas and actions taking place in neighboring fields. This is hardly a new idea. As Marens (2009) emphasizes, some of Karl Marx’s foundational ideas about the engines of change in any political economy deal with the role played by contradictory logics lodged in institutions (ideologies; see Chapter 1). Clemens and Cook (1999) invoke Marx to motivate their argument that many change processes in organization fields have their origins in “internal contradictions”—instabilities inherent in coexisting systems of belief and practice. Seo and Creed (2002: 223) elaborate this argument with a series of hypotheses regarding the ways in which “institutional arrangements create various inconsisten- cies and tensions within and between social systems” that transform actors into change agents.

The Diffusion of Market Logics

While it is not overly apparent in the studies of field structuration processes just reviewed, many field studies over the past three decades reveal a common theme. They chronicle the incursion of eco- nomic (specifically, market) logics into organization fields previously organized around other logics. In particular, fields once dominated by professional (including nonprofit), public (state), or craft logics have been colonized by neoliberal views emphasizing competition, privati- zation, cost-benefit analysis, and outcome measures stressing financial indicators. As a consequence, institutional models for organizing have been altered: Collegial structures have given way to hierarchical arrangements, and discretion and power have shifted from profes- sional and craft workers to managers and financial analysts. Such is the power of ideas!

Originating in Austria, a group of economists surrounding Frederick Hayek, during the late 1930s became concerned with state expansion, especially in socialist and fascist regimes, and argued for the value of a more competitive, less regulated economy. These ideas were advanced by Milton Friedman and other economists at the University of Chicago, giving rise of the Chicago school of neoliberalism embraced by many conservative think tanks and politicians (see Har- vey 2005; Prasad 2006). They were also fueled by the rapid expansion of global competition among societies, encouraging governments to reduce regulations and taxes on firms and to cut spending on pro- grams these taxes supported, especially welfare spending (Campbell 2004: Ch. 5). Moreover, they became the basis for policy and funding guidelines adopted by a variety of powerful international multilat- eral financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the Interna- tional Monetary Fund (IMF), who made the acceptance of these assumptions a criteria for receipt of loans and grants by participating nation-states (Peet 2009).

Among the field studies that I just summarized, the invasion of neoliberal ideas is most apparent in the healthcare study conducted by my colleagues and me, but is also evident in Fligstein’s study of the rise of financial criteria to displace manufacturing values in multidivisional corporations and in the study of biotech firms by Powell and col- leagues, who describe the rise of commercial logics to supplement and fuse with academic logics. The wider literature provides many addi- tional examples, among them:

  • In professional and craft realms, work by Thornton (2004) and Thornton and Ocasio (1999) examines a shift in the higher education publishing industry from an editorial logic to a market logic. These shifts were reflected in a decline in the number of personal imprints (an indicator of editorial control), greater likelihood of becoming a division within a multidivisional firm, and a change in the criteria of executive succession within these firms.

Related work by Greenwood and Suddaby (2006) describes changes in recent decades in corporate accounting firms, as many of them have shifted from operating as single professional organization employing a professional partnership model to multiservice firms structured as a managed professional business form. As a consequence, accountants are subject to more centralized, managerial controls. (For related studies of changes in law, accounting, and healthcare, see Brock, Powell, and Hinings, 1999.)

  • Work by a variety of scholars chronicles the incursion of market logics into the public Arguments began in earnest during the 1970s that governments needed to be “run more like a business.” Among the reforms introduced are contracting out services or func- tions to the private sector, the use of “public enterprises” (publically owned organizations that are dependent on nontax revenues), and public-private partnerships (see Brooks, Liebman, and Schelling 1984; Osborne and Gaebler 1992; Smith 1975). Similar attempts to restructure government—to increase accountability, emphasize output controls, employ private sector styles of management, and concentrate power in professional managers rather than civil service officials—have been carried out under the banner of “new public management” in the United Kingdom and its former colonies and in Scandinavia (see Greenwood and Hinings’ 1993, study of municipal governments described above; see also Christensen and Laegreid 2001).

Research by Zelner, Henisz, and Holburn (2009) examines the decision by more than 80 countries to privatize electric power utilities involving more than 970 projects during the period 1989 to 2001. The countries experienced strong ideological pressures associated with a growing consensus among economic and political decision makers as well as the lending policies of multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF to sell off state-owned facilities and encourage private power development. Although large numbers succumbed to these pressures, analysis revealed that during the period of observation, about 20% of the projects involving 37% of the countries experienced retrenchment, restoring the political objectives of the state-centered model without formal repeal of the neoliberal measured adopted. Responding to domestic sociopolitical normative and cognitive forces, a number of states were able to push back on neoliberal “reforms.”

  • Not only the public sector but the nonprofit and voluntary sec- tor has also been besieged by reformers attempting to restructure them around more “businesslike” models (Powell and Steinberg 2006; Salamon 2002). Hwang and Powell (2009) provide a nuanced study of these rationalization processes occurring in recent decades in a sample of nonprofit organizations in the San Franciscan metro- politan area driven largely by pressures from public agencies and foundations to bring in professional managers. Volunteers have been replaced by paid staff, and managers have introduced systems to improve accountability and “benchmarking” to induce competitive processes and increase The discretion once enjoyed by “substantive professionals” (e.g., social workers, mental health per- sonnel) has been curbed in favor of more centralized “strategic” goal setting and managerial controls.

Another example of related processes is provided by the study by Lounsbury and colleagues (2003) described earlier of recycling systems shifting from volunteer to for-profit forms. Also, many studies have been conducted of the conflicts between business and artistic values in cultural industries such as architecture, the performing arts, and film and TV production (e.g., Jones and Thornton 2005; Lampel, Shamsie, and Lant 2006). A different mode of entry by the private sector into fields traditionally associated with nonprofit enterprise is represented by the social enterprise—a hybrid form that employs conventional commercial strategies to achieve social ends, such as improving living conditions and protecting the environment (Billis 2010).

  • Another field recently impacted by economic logics is that of higher education. There are examples on many fronts, but I focus on three field studies that probe these changes. I already discussed in Chapter 6 Kraatz, Ventresca, and Deng’s (2010) study of changes in the organization structure of a number of liberal arts colleges as they intro- duced “enrollment” management as a way to increase the salience for admissions officers of taking into account a student’s ability to But student choices are also reshaping liberal arts programs. Research by Brint and colleagues (Brint 2002; Brint, Proctor, Murphy, and Hanneman 2012) reports that these colleges are increasingly responding to a “mar- ket model” in which students are viewed as consumers whose choices should drive the structure of the curriculum. As a consequence, during the period 1980 to 2000, growth in the more institutionalized and “basic” fields of knowledge such as English and mathematics were rapidly out- paced by that in more professionally oriented and “practical” fields of study (e.g., business, engineering, health sciences). These changes were also found to be associated with changes in donor priorities.

The third study marks changes on the research side of universities as technology-transfer offices have grown rapidly to allow universities and their faculties to reap the financial fruits of knowledge creation (Colyvas and Powell 2007). The kinds of activities that once were a cause for expulsion—financially profiting from the knowledge one had created by making it proprietary—were relatively quickly accepted by major universities and led to a redrawing of the boundaries around what kinds of actions and interactions with firms were considered to be legitimate.

Are such changes inevitable? Taking a longer-term historical view, Schneiberg and a variety of collaborators argue they need not be. They point out that in any robust economy, a variety of models for organiz- ing economic activity coexist and compete at any given time. Even during the period of most active industrial development at the turn of the 20th century, which witnessed the dominance of mass production and corporate forms, many associational models, including coopera- tives, mutual associations, and municipal utilities, continued to flourish in many sectors of the economy (Berk and Schneiberg 2005; Schneiberg 2007). These alternative organizational templates are available and remain viable in selected contexts. For example, even in the current neoliberal era, a significant number of mutual savings and loan asso- ciations well embedded in their communities have successfully resisted conversion to stock company form (Schneiberg, Goldstein, Kraatz, and Moore 2007).

The Diffusion of Religious Logics

Although there have been relatively few studies by institutional scholars dealing with the diffusion of religious logics from their home domain, this clearly represents one of the major arenas of social change in our time. In more traditional societies, we observe that reli- gious beliefs and practices often penetrate and strongly shape others societal sectors, such as politics and education. Thus, in many contem- porary Muslim-dominated societies, we observe the playing out of religious doctrines in many non-church contexts. Such trespassing has been largely curtailed in most contemporary secular societies until recent decades.

Much to the surprise of many sociologists who had grown accus- tomed to the steady march of secularism (e.g., Habermas and col- leagues [2010] view with alarm the derailing of the Enlightenment project of modernism), three mainstream religious faiths—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism—have all experienced a major surge of funda- mentalism within their ranks. Fundamentalism may be viewed as a religiously based cognitive and affective orientation to the world that entails resistance to change and the ideological orientation of mod- ernization (Antoun 2001; Emerson and Hartman 2006). And, as a consequence, numerous fundamentalist religious leaders and lay believers have become increasingly active in introducing their beliefs into kinship systems, defending traditional gender roles; political contexts, as the basis for supporting particular issues or candidates; and educational systems, as guidelines for revising curricula or selecting teaching personnel.

A useful examination of attempts by religious activists to influence school curricula was conducted by Binder (2002), who studied the efforts of evangelical Christian groups to introduce “creationist” argu- ments into the science curricula in four public school systems during the period 1981 to 2000. Efforts occurring in three states (Louisiana, California, and Kansas) were chronicled at multiple levels (local, state, national) and across multiple types of actors and forums (activists and school-level professionals, state and federal courts, school boards, and state legislatures). Her research suggests that the efforts of religious groups (challengers) were more successful in cases where the changes advocated were framed not as melding science and religious beliefs but as allowing “all children to feel welcome in publicly paid-for schools and to offer ‘balanced’ scientific instruction in science classrooms for the good of science” (p. 220). Even so, these efforts were observed to be more effective in changing political policies than in changing within- school institutional practice. We need more studies of this important source of institutional change.

Source: Scott Richard (2013), Institutions and Organizations: Ideas, Interests, and Identities, SAGE Publications, Inc; Fourth edition.

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