Sub-theme 07: (SWG): Institutional Logics

Michael Lounsbury
University of Alberta School of Business and National Institute for Nanotechnology, Canada
William Ocasio
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University Evanston, USA
Patricia H. Thornton
Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, USA

Call for Papers

The institutional logics perspective is a core meta-theoretical approach in organization studies (Greenwood et al., 2008) for the analysis of individual cognition and organizational behavior within the context of wider belief systems (Thornton & Ocasio, 1999; Lounsbury, 2007). This perspective has developed in North America and in Europe in reaction to prior approaches to institutional analysis in economics, political science, and sociology that have focused on partial aspects of how institutions influence individual cognition and organizational behavior; for example, historical, rational choice, and sociological views emphasizing diffusion and isomorphism of organizational forms and practices (Friedland & Alford, 1991). With the bridging of research findings in cognitive psychology and cultural sociology, scholars realize that there is much less pressure for consistency than most people thought, and that there are multiple cognitive orientations to action and structure (DiMaggio, 1997).

The institutional logics perspective includes theories and methods to analyze how individual and organizational actors are a product of multiple social locations in an inter-institutional system that includes institutional orders such as the family, professions, corporation, state, market, and religions (Thornton, 2004). Each institutional order can be conceptualized as having an ideal typical constellation of institutional elements, and can contain multiple institutional logics that influence individual cognition and organizational behavior with consequences for the focus of attention (Ocasio, 1997), types of social relations and practices, and interpretations of symbolic meaning (Friedland & Alford, 1991). Empirical research indicates that institutional logics shape the rules by which reasoning takes place and how rationality is perceived and experienced (Townley, 1997). The effects of contradictions and complementarities between the logics in and across different institutional orders vary significantly (e.g., Greenwood et. al., 2010; Jones & Livne Tarandach, 2008; Meyer & Hammerschmid, 2006; Purdy & Gray, 2009; Rao et al., 2003; Reay & Hinings, 2009).

Institutional logics associated with the inter-institutional system provide actors with frames of reference that pre-condition choices for sense making, vocabularies that motivate action, and a sense of self and identity. However, actors do not just reproduce existing institutional logics, they also have the capacity to revise and transform institutional logics through various mechanisms such as theorization and transposition, among others. The common referent is that of a "tool kit" in which institutional logics are a malleable entity differentially applied across different social situations (Thornton, 2004). While the degree of malleability remains an empirical question, actors for example tailor institutional logics to fit practical activity creating pluralism in institutional logics in specific local settings such as corporations, markets, industries, communities, and organizational fields (Lounsbury & Crumley, 2007).

Institutional Logics research has been rapidly accumulating, and has been fruitfully employed to shed light on a wide variety of commercial and public sector domains such as universities (Thornton & Ocasio, 2008; Thornton et al., forthcoming). In this track, we seek papers that build upon and extend the institutional logics perspective, and rely on a diversity of methods. We are especially interested in papers that examine questions related to the creation and consequences of institutional logics, the cross-level mechanisms associated with logics, and the dynamics of plural logics and their effects on competition and cooperation. In addition to organizing the track around excellent contemporary empirical work on institutional logics, we encourage doctoral students who are interested in better understanding the institutional logics perspective to submit their work.


DiMaggio, Paul (1997): Culture and Cognition. Annual Review of Sociology, 23, 263-287.
Friedland, Roger & Robert Alford (1991): Bringing Society Back In: Symbols, Practices, and Institutional Contradictions. In: W.W. Powell & P.J. DiMaggio (eds.): The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 232-263.
Greenwood, Royston, Amalia Magán Díaz, Stan Xiao Li & José Céspedes Lorente (2010): The Multiplicity of Institutional Logics and the Heterogeneity of Organizational Responses. Organization Science, 21, 521-539.
Greenwood, R.C. Oliver, S. Sahlin-Andersson & R. Suddaby (eds.): Handbook of Institutional Theory. London: Sage.
Jones, Candace & Reut Livne-Tarandach (2008): Designing a Frame: Rhetorical Strategies of Architects. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29, 1075-1099.
Lounsbury, Michael (2007): A Tale of Two Cities: Competing Logics and Practice Variation in the Professionalization of Mutual Funds. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 289-307.
Lounsbury, Michael & Ellen Crumley (2007): New Practice Creation: An Institutional Perspective on Innovation. Organization Studies, 28, 993-1012.
Meyer, Renate E. & Gerhard Hammerschmid (2006): Changing Institutional Logics and Executive Identities: A Managerial Challenge to Public Administration in Austria. American Behavioral Scientist, 49 (7), 1000–1014.
Ocasio, William (1997): Toward an Attention-Based View of the Firm. Strategic Management Journal, 18, 187-206.
Purdy, Jill M. & Barbara Gray (2009): Conflicting Logics, Mechanisms of Diffusion, and Multilevel Dynamics in Emerging Institutional Fields. Academy of Management Journal, 52, 355-380.
Rao, Hayagreeva, Phillipe Monin & Rodolphe Durand (2005): Border Crossing: Bricolage and the Erosion of Categorical Boundaries in French Gastronomy. American Sociological Review, 70, 968-991.
Reay, T. & C.R. Hinings (2009): Managing the Rivalry of Competing Institutional Logics. Organization Studies, 30 (6), 629-652.
Thornton, Patricia H. (2004): Markets from Culture: Institutional Logics and Organization Decisions in Higher Education Publishing. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.
Thornton, Patricia H. & William Ocasio (1999): Institutional Logics and the Historical Contingency of Power in Organizations. Executive Succession in the Higher Education Publishing Industry, 1958–1990. American Journal of Sociology, 105 (3), 801-843.
Thornton, Patricia H. & William Ocasio (2008): Institutional Logics. In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, S. K. Andersen & R. Suddaby (eds.): Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 99-129.
Thornton, Patricia H., William Ocasio & Michael Lounsbury (forthcoming): Institutional Logics: Theory, Methods, and Research. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Townley, Barbara (1997): The Institutional Logic of Performance Appraisal. Organization Studies, 18 (2), 261-285.


Michael Lounsbury 
William Ocasio 
Patricia H. Thornton