Tag Archives: institutional work

Me love you laing time… The work of forgetting and suppression

Somewhere in the pile of things-read-awaiting-bookmarking-on-t’website is a recent article on the what the authors called “memory work” –  (corporate) work of suppressing past mis-behaviour. It does not use R.D. Laing, but it could.  This below is the epigram from Joanna Russ’s amazing book ‘The Female Man’ [my review here]

If Jack succeeds in forgetting something, this is of little use if Jill continues to remind him of it. He must induce her not to do so. The safest way would be not just to make her keep quiet about it, but to induce her to forget it also.

Jack may act upon Jill in many ways. He may make her feel guilty for keeping on “bringing it up”. He may invalidateher experience. This can be done-more or less radically. He can indicate merely that it is unimportant or trivial, whereas it is important and significant to her. Going further, he can shift the modality of her experience from memory to imagination: “It”s all in your imagination.” Further still, he can invalidate the content. “It never happened that way.” Finally, he can invalidate not only the significance, modality and content, but her very capacity to remember at all, and make her feel guilty for doing so into the bargain.

This is not unusual. People are doing such things to each other all the time. In order for such transpersonal invalidation to work, however, it is advisable to overlay it with a thick patina of mystification. For instance, by denying that this is what one is doing, and further invalidating any perception that it is being done, by ascriptions such as “How can you think such a thing 1” “You must be paranoid.” And so on.

Laing, R.D. 1967 The Politics of Experience. London: Penguin. (first chapter online here)

DDT is good for meeeee!! And ‘defensive institutional work’

So, the latest to write about in my ‘only read what you intent to blog’

Maguire, S. and Hardy, C. 2009. Discourse and Deinstitutionalization: The Decline of DDT. Academy of Management Journal, Vo. 52, (1), pp.148-178.

There’s heaps of good stuff in this paper, which is about how DDT went from hero to zero in ten short and shocking years (it wasn’t all down to Rachel Carson or her book, ) but crucially, I need to show (to myself and to someone else) that this blogging isn’t just “relaxation” (and yes, I am weird enough for that to ring true!!) but also a necessary and efficient way of building the theory around my thesis effort.

So, to highlight – this paper is the one that ‘invented’ the notion of ‘defensive institutional work’, and that is, I think, crucial to my thesis.  What is it?   I’m glad you asked. It’s what field members (e.g. incumbents and their allies) do in response to “attacks”. Or, to put it more academically, what they do in response to “disruptive institutional work originating from outside the focal field and promoting the abandonment of existing practices.”
Maguire and Hardy define this reaction as

“defensive institutional work”: the purposive action of individuals and organizations aimed at countering disruptive institutional work. In our case, certain actors— most notably in industry—sought to defend the institutional pillars by producing their own texts countering assertions of negative impacts, the inappropriateness of practices, and the need for regulation.

They say that their

“findings illustrate that defensive institutional work also takes the form of authoring texts but, instead of promoting problematizations, these texts dispute them in an attempt to legitimize existing practices, and with an eye toward defending the institutional pillars.”
(Maguire and Hardy, 2009: 169)

They reckon (and I reckon they’re right, fwiw) that

“Defensive institutional work is an important new concept and contribution to the literature. We distinguish it from institutional work undertaken to “maintain” institutions, which is accomplished by actors “largely unaware of the original purpose, or ultimate outcome, of their actions,” who engage “in the routines and rituals of reproduction” (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006: 234). In contrast, our study indicates that defensive institutional work is a conscious and strategic response to disruptive work.

Defensive work is particularly relevant to outsideridriven deinstitutionalization which, we observed, is characterized by a wholesale attack on the pillars supporting existing practices. We suggest that the concept of defensive institutional work also applies to insider-driven deinstitutionalization; a number of studies of institutional change have reported some form of resistance to the latter phenomenon (e.g., Farjoun, 2002; Maguire & Hardy, 2006; Reay & Hinings, 2005). This concept is therefore important for understanding both the adoption of new practices and the abandonment of old ones because it focuses attention on the discursive struggle likely to ensue when either insiders or outsiders seek changes in practices in which existing field members’ interests are vested, as well as on the specific ways field members respond to and resist initiatives for institutional change.
(Maguire and Hardy, 2009: 169)

Oh, so what is ‘disruptive institutional work?’ It’s the things annoying folks (inside or outside) do to upset the gravy train.  According to Maguire and Hardy (2009: 168)

Lawrence and Suddaby argued, can have three aims: “undermining assumptions and beliefs” about practices; “disassociating moral foundations” from practices; and “disconnecting sanctions” from practices through changes in legal or professional regulations (2006: 235).
(Maguire and Hardy, 2009: 168)

There’s also really good stuff on subject positions and bodies of knowledge in this article, and ‘translation’ (as opposed to diffusion).

So, have done some further thinking and investigating about Defensive Institutional Work, and its antecedents etc.  Gonna send the boss something on this soon.  And to a couple of other folks beforehand for their comment….

How the sun also rises- on solar energy, institutional shifts and industry creation

Day three of my policy of writing about each paper/book I read under three categories (in escalating importance

a) highlight interesting theory/facts
b) relate the reading to other (academic) reading, and
c) how it helps me move forward on my Thesis, (Handing Over M-phatically   August/September ’17)   (aka “THOMAS”).

Today’s article (and yes, having to WRITE and even occasionally think has slowed down my reading already) is another corker, this time on the long slow (global) rise of solar.

Bohnsack, R. Pinske, J. and Waelpoel. A. 2016. The institutional evolution process of the global solar industry: The role of public and private actors in creating institutional shifts. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Vol. 20, pp.16-32.

The article itself

The core contribution of the article is this –

“The study’s main contribution is in revealing that the development of the solar industry can be portrayed as a relay run, in which different actors, at different times, created the momentum for the industry’s evolution due to institutional shifts. We analyse this institutional evolution process by questioning which actors were responsible for the most significant institutional shifts that have moved the solar industry forward. Based on a study of the global solar industry, over the period of 1982–2012, the findings suggest that the main institutional shifts were the result of the interplay between different public and private actors that used various entrepreneurial mechanisms to drive the institutional evolution process.”

(Bohnsack et al. 2016: 17 )

There’s stuff on cognitive legitimacy, the work that companies do to lower prices and maintain quality (and so create expectations) and what government do (and do not) do to create “stimuli-based institutional shifts“.  Market creation etc. There’s a very neat brief history of the solar industry pre-1982 (think calculators and satellites) too.

After trawling through a lot newspaper articles and building a nifty timeline, the authors create a three part periodisation, and show how that ‘relay race’ has been run from Japan to Germany to China  (Australia, with it’s clever people but endless brain drain, doesn’t cop a mention). They conclude that

“While technological breakthroughs have been pertinent to the creation of the industry, our analysis shows that the industry’s institutional evolution has also been determined by institutional shifts. While companies seem to have employed a mechanism based on knowledge diffusion to create institutional shifts, governments used a stimuli-based mechanism instead. What differed in the process of creating institutional shifts was not only who the actors were that acted as institutional entrepreneurs, but also what role they played in this process.
(Bohnsack et al. 2016: 31)

And this perspective, they hope, will  allow everyone to

“go beyond the traditional dichotomy in transition studies of whether the forces that transform an industry come from outside, from new entrants that disrupt established industries, or from within, from incumbents (Bergek et al., 2013). Whereas previous studies have examined how incumbents use institutional approaches to resist change in their industry (Smink et al., 2015)”
(Bohnsack et al. 2016: 31)

Loads of mouth-watering references, most of them for the post-THOMAS world…


Aldrich, H.E., Fiol, C.M., 1994. Fools rush in? The institutional context of industry creation. Acad. Manage. Rev. 19, 645–670.

Battilana, J., Leca, B., Boxenbaum, E., 2009. How actors change institutions: towards a theory of institutional entrepreneurship. Acad. Manage. Ann. 3,65–107.

Bohnsack, R., Kolk, A., Pinkse, J., 2015. Catching recurring waves: low-emission vehicles, international policy developments and firm innovation strategies. Technol. Forecasting Social Change 98, 71–87.

Hoffman, A.J., 1999. Institutional evolution and change: environmentalism and the U.S. chemical industry. Acad. Manage. J. 42, 351–371.

Lawrence, T.B., Phillips, N., 2004. From Moby Dick to Free Willy: macro-cultural discourse and institutional entrepreneurship in emerging institutional fields. Organization 11, 689–711

Lawrence, T.B., Suddaby, R., 2006. Institutions and institutional work. In: Clegg, S.R., Hardy, C.,

Munir, K.A., Phillips, N., 2005. The birth of the ‘Kodak Moment’: Institutional entrepreneurship and the adoption of new technologies. Organiz. Stud. 26,1665–1687.Oliver, C., 1992.

Pinkse, J., Groot, K., 2015. Sustainable entrepreneurship and corporate political activity: overcoming market barriers in the clean energy sector. Entrepreneur. Theory Practice 39, 633–654.

Pinkse, J., van den Buuse, D., 2012. The development and commercialization of solar PV technology in the oil industry. Energy Policy 40, 11–20.


How relates to other reading.
Well, there is the whole stuff around path creation/market creation of course.
Lamertz et al on “institutional redesign”
Also heresthetics and sociology of expectations stuff…

How it helps me move forward on THOMAS.
This notion of institutional shifts and institutional work (IW).  Here you see industry’s doing knowledge-based IW governments doing stimuli-based IW.  In my case study, you’d turn that on its head and look at the state and corporations doing what could be called offensive institutional work (I’ve written about it a bit already, here).