Sub-theme 18: Actors and Institutions: Alternative Currents

Samer Abdelnour
Erasmus University, The Netherlands
Hans Hasselbladh
Örebro University, Sweden
Jannis Kallinikos
London School of Economics, UK

Call for Papers

As with much social theorizing, the role actors assume in institutional processes is central to institutional theorizing. Fundamentally, institutionalization coincides with the construction of particular forms of agency (Meyer & Jepperson, 2000). Institutions and social agents inhabit one another; how social agents perceive themselves and act in the world are the outcomes of institutionalization processes.

The emergence of pro-agency approaches within organizational institutionalism challenges these fundamental presuppositions, encouraging much debate on the topic of actors and institutional action (Battilana & D'Aunno, 2009). Institutional entrepreneurship and institutional work, in asserting actors to be purposive and interested institutional agents, have gone furthest in releasing them from the grip of institutions and reversing the causal processes of institution building.

In freeing purposive agents from institutions, however, these institutional streams raise some fundamental questions:

  • Where does the capacity and freedom to exercise agency reside?
  • Why do some institutions or cultures allow more choice and reflexivity than others?
  • To which degree are actor interests and preferences independent of institutions?
  • Is agency exogenous or endogenous to institutions, and to what degree?

Keeping with the general theme of the 2015 EGOS Colloquium, this sub-theme aims to take stock of available concepts and empirical approaches for exploring the links between actors and institutions in order to assess the complexity of social practices and the processes through which institutional outcomes are accomplished.

Some of these issues are present in different degrees in much contemporary institutional theorizing (Thornton, 2002; Lawrence et al., 2009). We encourage the submission of manuscripts that take stock of these approaches. In particular we would like to see novel, nascent or emergent perspectives on institutions that attempt to link grand theories of institutions, institutional logics, institutional work and other institutional expressions of practice. But we would also like to encourage approaches that reflect a wider and much wanting understanding of institutionalization (Foucault, 1991; Friedland, 2009) in which actors and institutions are seen as historical processes of mutual accommodation or decline and disintegration. In so doing, it is important to be keenly aware about the level of analysis in which arguments and empirical findings apply. For example, many controversies around actors and institutions are attributable to time or levels of analysis (Kallinikos et al., 2013).

We encourage submissions that study agency and institutions in new ways. Relevant themes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Agency and organizational routines
  • Technologies of the self and institutions
  • Globalization and situated practices
  • Professions, expert practice and institutions
  • Technology, skill profiles and agency forms
  • Social and community entrepreneurship




  • Battilana, J., & D'Aunno, T. (2009): "IW and the paradox of embedded agency." In: T. Lawrence, R. Suddaby & B. Leca (eds.): IW: Actors and Agency in Institutional Studies of Organization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 31–58.
  • Foucault, M. (1991): "Governmentality." In: G. Burchell, C. Gordon & P. Miller (eds.): The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, pp. 87–104.
  • Friedland, R. (2009): "Institution, practice, and ontology: Toward a religious sociology." In: R.E. Meyer, K. Sahlin, M.J. Ventresca & P. Walgenbach (eds.): Institutions and Ideology. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 27. Bingley, UK: Emerald, pp. 45–84.
  • Kallinikos, J., Hasselbladh, H., & Marton, A. (2013): "Governing social practice: technology and institutional change." Theory and Society, 42 (3), 395–441.
  • Lawrence, T.B., & Suddaby, R. (2006): "Institutions and IW." In: S.R. Clegg, C. Hardy, T.B. Lawrence & W.R. Nord (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organization Studies. London: SAGE Publications, pp. 215–254.
  • Thornton, P.H. (2002): "The rise of the corporation in a craft industry: conflict and conformity in institutional logics." Academy of Management Journal, 45 (1), 81–101.


Samer Abdelnour is Assistant Professor at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands. His research interests are global institutions, humanitarian intervention, and collective enterprise. He has published articles in 'International Political Sociology', 'Journal of International Business Studies' and 'Journal of Business Research'.
Hans Hasselbladh is Professor of Organization at Örebro University, Sweden. His research interests are power, control, and autonomy in working life and historical perspectives on organizations. He has published several books, and his articles have appeared in various journals, including 'Organization Studies', 'Organization', 'Research in the Sociology of Organizations', 'Public Administration' and 'Scandinavian Journal of Management'.
Jannis Kallinikos is Professor at the Department of Management, London School of Economics, UK. Recent works include "The Consequences of Information: Institutional Implications of Technological Change" (Elgar, 2006), "Governing Through Technology: Information Artefacts and Social Practice" (Palgrave, 2011), and "Materiality and Organizing: Social Interaction in a Technological World" (Oxford University Press, 2012, co-edited with Paul Leonardi & Bonnie Nardi).