Sub-theme 45: Institutions and Emotions

W.E. Douglas Creed
University of Rhode Island, USA
Jaco Lok
University of New South Wales, Australia
Marc J. Ventresca
University of Oxford, UK

Call for Papers


Institutionalists have long recognized cognitive, normative and regulative processes in institutional experience – from Smith's work on moral sentiments to Selznick’s concern with moral communities, to Goffman's analysis of total institutions. This sub-theme builds from these valuable foundations to invite explorations of the role of emotions – both lived-affective experiences (feelings) and other non-calculative responses to triggers – in institutional processes and institutional work.

For over two decades, organizational scholars have called for making the role of emotions in institutional processes more explicit. Yet emotions remain curiously absent from most institutionalist studies, despite increasing attention elsewhere in organizational research and related social sciences (e.g., Hochschild, 1983; Collins, 1988; Goodwin, Jasper & Poletta, 2001). Recently, a number of scholars have begun to address this concern. Scott (2008) led the way by contending that emotions may operate across the standard institutional 'pillars', interacting emotion with regulative, normative, and cognitive processes. Creed, DeJordy & Lok (2010) explored how actors experience institutional contradictions, showing both cognitive and emotional processes at work. Indeed, institutions are inhabited by people who bring their whole selves – heart, mind, and body – to the experience and enactment of institutions (Hallett & Ventresca, 2006; Gutierrez, Scully & Howard-Grenville, 2010). Individual emotional investment or disinvestment in a dominant institutional order may also be a critical antecedent of all manner of institutional work (Voronov & Vince, forthcoming).

This emerging body of work provides good reason to believe that institutional processes are driven perhaps as much by lived-affective factors as cognitive-reflective ones. Building on cultural and political psychology and the microsociologies of identity, affect and work (Barley, 2009), the emotion-and-institutions focus may also re-invigorate 'standard' analytic problems such as legitimacy and stability, the links between macro and micro institutional processes, and the linkages among rules, roles, resources and logics of appropriateness.

The aim of this sub-theme is to take up this challenge by theorizing and elaborating the role of emotions in institutional processes. If we treat emotion itself in institutional terms, what questions should institutional and organizational researchers pose? The challenge for organizational theorists is to develop constructs and arguments without simply replicating what related traditions have already studied. In order to work towards a broad research agenda, we welcome contributions on the following questions:

  • How do institutions configure the boundaries of 'appropriate' emotional repertoires?
  • How do emotions figure as cultural tools or institutional resources in different forms of institutional work?
  • How do institutions shape actors' emotions and which emotions are involved in the regulation of thought and behaviour?
  • What are strategies for targeting the institutional arrangements that regulate emotions? Under what conditions can institutional inhabitants purposively engage with emotions in order to (re)create, maintain, or disrupt the institutional arrangements that regulate them?
  • How does emotional commitment to or dissatisfaction with institutional arrangements arise and how might these experiences be related to the propensity to engage in different forms of institutional work?
  • How do institutions make particular practices feel desirable or just?
  • How are emotions linked to domination and its limits?
  • Can tracking the emotions of the field participants provide indicators of institutional change? Are there linkages between different emotions and different moments in a change process?
  • How does actors' mastery of emotions or emotional repertoires figure in their capacities for action?

These questions are not exhaustive of possible contributions. We welcome empirical and theoretical papers that draw from standard or innovative research approaches and arguments in organizational institutionalism and kindred approaches, symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, social/cultural/political psychology, cultural and social history, psychoanalytic theory, identity theories, social movement theory, relational sociology, sensemaking, and critical perspectives.





Collins, R. (1988): Theoretical Sociology. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Creed, W.E D., R. DeJordy & J. Lok (2010): "Being the Change: Resolving Institutional Contradiction through Identity Work." Academy of Management Journal, 53 (6)
Goodwin, J., J.M. Jasper & F. Polletta (2001): Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements. Chicago: University of Chicago
Gutierrez, B., J. Howard-Grenville & M. Scully (2010): "The faithful rise up: Split identification and an unlikely change effort." Academy of Management Journal, 53 (4)
Hallett, T. & M.J. Ventresca (2006): "Inhabited institutions: Social interactions and organizational forms in Gouldner's 'Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy'." Theory and Society, 35, 231–236
Scott, R.W. (2008): Institutions and Organizations: Ideas and Interests. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Voronov, M. & R. Vince (forthcoming): "Integrating emotions into the analysis of institutional work." Academy of Management Review


W.E. Douglas Creed Doug Creed is an Associate Professor of Management at the University of Rhode Island. His work on voice, social identity, and change agency in the legitimation of contested organizational change -- particularly related to organizational politics underlying the offering of domestic partner benefits and the ordination of openly gay and lesbian people-- has appeared in the Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, Journal of Management Inquiry, Journal of Applied Behavior Science, and the Journal of Management Studies.
Jaco Lok Jaco Lok is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Organisation & Management, Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales. He completed his PhD in the area of institutional theory in 2008 at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, with Professor Hugh Willmott as his supervisor. Jaco is engaged in research on the microfoundations of institutional theory and has recently published two papers in this area in the Academy of Management Journal. He is particularly interested in the role of identity in bridging the micro- and macro-levels of analysis, including the role of emotions in processes of identity construction and identification.
Marc J. Ventresca Marc J Ventresca is an organisational and economic sociologist who holds a University Lecturer post at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. He is a Governing Body Fellow of Wolfson College, a Faculty Fellow of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS), and a Senior Scholar at the Center for Innovation and Communication at Stanford University. He holds a PhD from Stanford University in sociology, with focus on culture and politics. His research investigates governance innovation among global financial markets, entrepreneurial leadership in knowledge- and information-intensive organisations, and emerging ecosystem services markets.