Unintended Consequences of Institutional Work
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After the so called “practice turn” in new institutional studies of organizations a big body of literature was published on how social actors (individuals or organizations) intentionally create institutions. Such actors were called “institutional entrepreneurs” (a controversial term, criticized from many perspectives) or – in the latest proposals – “proto-institution sponsors”. The intentional actions of creating, maintaining or disrupting institutions can be theoretically grasped in the concept of institutional work as introduced by Thomas B. Lawrence and Roy Suddaby. In their studies departing from the classical understanding of the notion of institution as shaping and superior to action authors focus on how actions affect institutions. They are particularly interested in analyzing how actors introduce institutions in accordance to their values or interests. This theoretical approach – highlighting the intended institutional arrangements – leaves little room for analysis of institutionalization of practices, technologies or rules which got out of the control of social actors or became institutionalized as an effect of either competitive convergence or collaborative co-creation of actors with various goals, i.e. final arrangements are dissimilar to their initial designs. In the paper I discuss how to implement the problem of unintended consequences into the coherent theoretical framework of institutional work. I propose a typology of unintended consequences of institutional work which comprises of: institutional failures, institutional compromises and institutions under constant reinstitutionalization.
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