Sub-theme 31: Sharpen the Tools: Institutional Approaches in Organizational Research

Julia Brandl
Innsbruck University School of Management and WU Vienna, Austria
Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist
University of Gothenburg, School of Business, Economics and Law, Sweden

Call for Papers

In recent years, institutional approaches have become increasingly intriguing in examining organizational phenomena. A growing community of scholars focus today on concepts such as institutional change, institutional logics, institutional entrepreneurship and institutionalization. As a variety of approaches is associated with the "big tent" of institutional perspectives (Meyer, 2008), institutional research has expanded from the macro to the micro level (and back). Today, various schools (e.g., Scandinavian, Northern American, Austrian-German and French) participate in the elaboration of institutional perspectives.


Increasingly, the pervasiveness of institutional theories in organizational research itself is seen more critically. Recently, Suddaby (2010) has formulated two major concerns: (1) as more research relies on an institutional perspective, our understanding of the variety and complexity of empirical organizational phenomena is reduced and (2) as more agendas of distant research paradigms are used to address puzzles of institutional approaches, the focus of institutional theory becomes weakened.


In this sub-theme we aim to sharpen the tools (Schneiberg & Clemens, 2006) of an institutional perspective to organizations. We are convinced that we can gain more, if we want to achieve less with an institutional perspective. To this end we have decided to bring together papers that specify, expand or challenge the usefulness of institutional perspectives in organizational research. Our sub-theme takes up the recent interest in reflecting the value of institutional approaches in relation to other research traditions (e.g., S-A-P, social psychology) which have been used to understand organizational phenomena. To facilitate the conversation on the scope, limitations, and innovations of institutional approaches, we encourage analyses that clarify how theoretical goals and concepts can be aligned with empirical data. Overall, we seek to open up a discussion of the value of multiple perspectives for studying organizations.




Meyer, John W., 2008. Reflections on Institutional Theories of Organizations. In Royston Greenwood, Christine Oliver, Kerstin Sahlin and Roy Suddaby (Eds.) The Sage Handbook of Organizational New Institutionalism. 790-812. London: Sage.


Schneiberg, Marc & Clemens, Elisabeth S. 2006. The Typical Tools for the Job: Research Strategies in Institutional Analysis. Sociological Theory, 24(3): 195-227.


Suddaby Roy, 2010. Challenges for Institutional Theory. Journal of Management Inquiry, 19(1): 14-20.

Julia Brandl 
Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist