Institutional Logics and Functionalist Differentiation Theory: Challenges and pathways forward

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As a theoretical framework in organization studies, institutional logics is immensely popular. It has been used in a large amount of highly contributory and enlightening empirical studies, and developed far beyond its original formulation in a classical paper by Friedland and Alford (1991). In our paper, we identify three key theoretical problems that have emerged in the development and use of institutional logics theory in the past three decades: the lack of uniformity and coherence in the definitions and empirical identifications of logics; the tendency of institutional logics theorists to attempt to build grand theory to connect micro, meso, and macro levels of analysis; and the difficulties to explain how institutional logics are reproduced and how institutional logics interrelate and evolve over time. To address these issues, we highlight the similarities between institutional logics theory and classical functionalist differentiation theory, drawing its legacy from Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton, and propose its use as a resource in further theoretical development. The aim of the paper is not to reject institutional logics theory, or merely to point out its weaknesses, but to demonstrate how a revival of some classics in sociological theory can be used to sharpen institutional logics as an analytical tool and thus assist in efforts to further improve the usefulness of institutional logics as a theoretical framework in organization studies.
TidskriftOrganization Theory
StatusPublished - 2022 sep. 19

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Sociologi
  • Företagsekonomi


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