Social Organization, Classificatory Analogies and Logics: Institutional Theory Revisits Mary Douglas

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Stewart CLEGG, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Danielle LOGUE, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
As a social theory of organization, it is unsurprising that institutional theory draws upon the profound and ambitious work of the late anthropologist Mary Douglas. One of the foundational concepts of organisational institutionalism, institutional logics, directly draws upon her work. Yet, in recent times this foundational role has faded from view as institutional theory itself becomes increasingly institutionalized as a vibrant branch of organization studies. This is unfortunate for there is much continuity in current work with that of Douglas, it now being 50 years and 30 years, respectively, since the publication of some of her formative works. The deep analogies that underpin classificatory systems and the processes by which they are sustained remain significant areas under continued investigation by institutional theorists. Thus, in this paper we revisit Douglas’ core arguments and their connections to institutional theorizing. We specifically explore her contribution of ‘naturalizing analogies’ as a way of accounting for the unfolding of change across levels of analysis, extending, modifying and enriching explanations of how institutional change is reified, naturalised and made meaningful. We do this by providing empirical descriptions of meta-organizing analogies and also field-level applications. Douglas’ major theoretical works are of considerable relevance for current institutional theorizing, particularly in informing accounts of the movement between individual cognition and collective signification.