Sub-theme 57: The Multiplicity of Institutional Logics

Michael Lounsbury
University of Alberta School of Business, Canada
William Ocasio
Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, USA
Patricia H. Thornton
Texas A&M University and Stanford University, USA

Call for Papers

The institutional logics perspective has become one of the most rapidly growing intellectual domains in organization studies (Lounsbury & Beckman, 2015). It provides a core meta-theoretical approach in organization studies for the analysis of individual cognition and organizational behavior within the context of wider belief systems (Friedland & Alford, 1991; Thornton et al., 2012). Research on institutional logics, seeded in North America but with contributions now regularly produced by both European and North American scholars (almost equally), has broadened over more than a decade to focus not only on the consequences of changes in institutional logics (Thornton & Ocasio, 1999), and understanding the implications of logic multiplicity and how organizations respond to institutional complexity (e.g., Greenwood et al., 2010; Pache & Santos, 2010; Smets et al., 2012; Smets et al., 2015), but also on the processes and procedures of how institutional logics get constructed (Quattrone, 2015) and evolve (Dunn & Jones, 2010; Rao et al., 2003). These developments reflect a growing recognition that conflicting and overlapping pressures stemming from multiple institutional logics create interpretive and strategic ambiguity for organizational leaders and participants (Greenwood et al., 2011).
In this sub-theme, we seek papers that build on and extend institutional logics research by focusing on how organizations are sites involving the existence of many sometimes competing, sometimes complementary institutional logics. We welcome papers that also build on related institutional perspectives that examine how organizations respond to institutional pressures (Jones et al., 2013; Westenholz et al., 2006; Smets et al., 2015). For instance, Scandinavian scholars have illuminated how sensemaking (Lefsrud & Meyer, 2012) and identity construction (Meyer & Hammerschmid, 2006) processes relate to the integration of multiple institutional logics in organizational practice (Waldorff & Greenwood, 2011), sometimes with an explicit aim of shielding organizations from institutional pressures or shifting the balance of institutional logics in their organizational environments (Boxenbaum & Battilana, 2005; Meyer & Höllerer, 2010). Efforts to integrate these two complementary streams of research, coupled with the recent formulation of theory (e.g., Thornton et al., 2012), has led to research on institutional logics in action that reveals a more fluid and loosely coupled view of institutional logics relative to actors identities and practices (see Lounsbury & Boxenbaum, 2015).
More generally our focus on the multiplicity of institutional logics is central to the colloquium theme on the “Good Organization”. Efforts to construct good organizations may involve balancing competing and complementary ambitions and interests, to include an understanding of material, including technological, and symbolic aspects that interplay in interpreting and mediating interaction in complex institutional environments. In understanding the definition of a “good organization”, we seek papers that focus on the sources of values and valuation, and the construction of elemental categories that comprise an institutional logic. We are interested in papers that seek to uncover mechanisms and processes related to how organization and field-level actors manage institutional multiplicity to achieve their ends or goals. These “ends” must also be a focal point for analysis and discussion, as we seek to facilitate inquiry into the various ideas and values that underpin the understanding of the “good”, and indeed how “good” gets constructed in and around organizations. In addition to organizing the sub-theme around contemporary empirical work on institutional logics, we encourage doctoral students who are interested in better understanding the institutional logics perspective to submit their work.


  • Boxenbaum, E., & Battilana, J. (2005): “Importation as innovation: transposing managerial practices across fields.” Strategic Organization, 3(4), 355–383.
  • Dunn, M.B., & Jones, C. (2010): “Institutional logics and institutional pluralism: the contestation of care and science logics in medical education, 1967–2005.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 55, 114–149.
  • Friedland, R., & Alford, R. (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, R., Magan Díaz, A., Xiao Li, S., & Cespedes Lorente, J. (2010): “The Multiplicity of Institutional Logics and the Heterogeneity of Organizational Responses.” Organization Science, 21, 521–539.
  • Greenwood, R., Raynard, M., Kodeih, F., Micelotta, E., & Lounsbury, M. (2011): “Institutional Complexity and Organizational Responses.” Academy of Management Annals, 5, 317–371.
  • Jones, C., Boxenbaum, E., & Anthony, C. (2013): “The immaterial of the material in institutional logics.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations, special issue on Institutional Logics in Action, 39, 51–75.
  • Lefsrud, L., & Meyer, R. (2012): “Science or Science Fiction? Professionals' discursive construction of climate change.” Organization Studies, 33 (11), 1477–1506.
  • Lounsbury, M., & Beckman, C. (2015): “Celebrating Organization Theory.” Journal of Management Studies, 52, 288–308.
  • Lounsbury, M., & Boxenbaum, E. (eds.) (2013): Institutional Logics in Action. Book Series “Research in the Sociology of Organizations”, Vols. 39a and 39b. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Meyer, R., & Hammerschmid, G. (2006): “Changing Institutional Logics and Executive Identities: A managerial challenge to public administration in Austria.” American Behavioral Scientist, 49 (7), 1000–1014.
  • Meyer, R., & Höllerer, M. (2010): “Meaning structures in a contested issue field: A topographic map of shareholder value in Austria.” Academy of Management Journal, 53 (6), 1241–1262.
  • Pache, A., & Santos, F. (2010): “When Worlds Collide: The internal dynamics of organizational responses to conflicting institutional demands.” Academy of Management Review, 35, 455–476.
  • Smets, M. Greenwood, R., & Lounsbury, M. (2015): “An institutional perspective on strategy as practice.” In: D. Golsorkhi, L. Rouleau, D. Seidl & E. Vaara (eds.): Cambridge Handbook of Strategy as Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 285–302.
  • Smets, M., Morris, T., & Greenwood, R. (2012): “From Practice to Field: Multi-level Model of Practice-driven Institutional Change.” Academy of Management Journal, 55, 877–904.
  • Smets, M. Jarzabkowski, P., Burke, G., & Spee, P. (2015): “Reinsurance trading in Lloyd's of London: Balancing conflicting-yet-complementary logics in practice.” Academy of Management Journal, 58, 932–970.
  • Rao, H., Monin, P., & Durand, R. (2003): “Institutional Change in Toque Ville: Nouvelle cuisine as an identity movement in French gastronomy.” American Journal of Sociology, 108, 795–843.
  • Thornton, P., & Ocasio, W. (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, 801–843.
  • Thornton, P., Ocasio, W., & Lounsbury, M. (2012): The Institutional Logics Perspective. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Quattrone, P. (2015): “Governing Social Orders, Unfolding Rationality, and Jesuit Accounting Practices: A Procedural Approach to Institutional Logics.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 60, 411–445.
  • Waldorff, S., & Greenwood, R. (2011): “The dynamics of community translation: Danish health-care centres.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 33, 113–142.
  • Westenholz, A., Strandgaard Pedersen, J., & Dobbin, F. (2006): “Institutions in the Making: Identity, Power and the Emergence of New Organizational Forms.” American Behavioral Scientist, 49, 889–896.
Michael Lounsbury is the Canada Research Chair in Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of Alberta School of Business. His research focuses on the relationship between institutional change, entrepreneurial dynamics, and the emergence of new industries and practices. Currently, he is the series editor of ‘Research in the Sociology of Organizations’. Formerly, he was a Co-editor of ‘Organization Studies’ and Associate Editor of ‘Academy of Management Annals’.
William Ocasio is the John L. and Helen Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Management and Organizations, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, USA. His research focuses on the interplay between institutions, culture, attention, and decision making in organizations and organizational fields. He is currently a Senior Editor at ‘Organization Science’.
Patricia H. Thornton is Professor of Sociology and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University, USA. Her research and teaching interests focus on institutional and organization theory and innovation and entrepreneurship. She, along with William Ocasio and Michael Lounsbury are the recipients of the 2013 George R. Terry Award granted by the Academy of Management for outstanding contribution to management knowledge for their book “The Institutional Logics Perspective: A New Approach to Culture, Structure, and Process” (Oxford University Press, 2012).