Re-Framing the ‘Paradox of Embedded Agency’: Figurational Dynamics, Habitus Formation and Advertising Practice at Arthur Guinness & Sons Ltd

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
John CONNOLLY, Dublin City University, Ireland
Paddy DOLAN, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland
New institutionalism is now one of the most dominant theoretical frames for the study of organizations. Despite this, it remains conflicted by the problem often termed ‘the paradox of embedded agency’. Using Elias’s concept of social habitus and the wider theoretical lens informing it, we contend that this approach helps reframe and dissolve the dualisms that have been implicit within institutional theory. Our empirical case concerns the brewer Arthur Guinness & Sons Ltd and the decision in 1927 to sanction an official direct advertising campaign in Britain for the first time. We explain how this was connected with the emergence of more equal power relations between the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, which facilitated a change in the social habitus of those in favour and those previously opposed to advertising at Guinness. Furthermore, we illustrate how the social tensions generated by this structure of society were channelled into the social habitus of individuals. We conclude that changing social interdependences at connected levels of integration – organizational to international – reframe emotional relations thereby enabling strategic innovations.