Sub-theme 56: Uncovering Contested Industry Dynamics: The Interaction of Contestation, Social Evaluations and Organizations

Tal Simons
Tilburg University, The Netherlands
Déborah Philippe
University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Ana M. Aranda
Católica-Lisbon, Portugal

Call for Papers

Contested industries have been defined as industries that face widespread disapproval because some sectors of society find them “offensive, inappropriate, or harmful” (Davidson, 2003, p. 2). Recently, organizational scholars have focused on studying contested industries such as arms (Durand & Vergne, 2015; Vergne, 2012), tobacco (Hsu & Grodal, 2015; Simons et al., 2016), and gambling (Galvin, Ventresca, & Hudson, 2005). These studies have put forward that contested industries are socially condemned not only because their products are harmful and/or addictive, but also because of the disparity between their actions and societal norms and values (Du & Vieira, 2012; Gallie, 1956).
In this sub-theme we seek papers that build on, or extend, contested industries’ research by focusing on uncovering contested industry dynamics. We not only welcome papers that build on organizational scholarship, but also papers that integrate other perspectives to study contested industries. For example, finance research has focused on studying the performance of the so-called “sin industries” (for example, tobacco, gambling, alcohol) (Cai et al., 2011; Fabozzi et al., 2008; Kim & Venkatachalam, 2011; Leventis et al., 2013), while marketing research has mainly addressed issues related to the marketing of “unmentionable products” (for example, products that are perceived as controversial) (Davidson, 2003; Wilson & West, 1981). Thus, this sub-theme focuses on integrating complementary scholarly traditions that can advance our understanding of contested industries.
As this sub-theme aims to advance research on contested industries, we encourage the submission of diverse empirical and theoretical papers that uncover the dynamics of recurring contests over industries or of changes in contestation over a given industry. Moreover, we encourage the submission of studies that integrate and use seemingly separate theories to study contested industries. We are particularly interested in theoretical papers that aim to conceptualize contestation, in empirical papers that study the mechanisms and processes of contested industries, or in studies that uncover the tension between contestation and the legitimate (illegitimate) or the legal (illegal). Examples of the latter are recent cases including marihuana becoming legal in several U.S. states, Russia making bitcoin legal after stigmatizing it for years as a criminal artefact, or Sweden making drones illegal. Examples of the former are “traditionally” contested industries like alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, which provide an ideal setting to study contestation because, on the one hand, arguments about the personal freedoms of drinking, smoking, and gambling are fundamental to their survival and performance (Ahrens, 2004), and on the other hand, in some contexts and dynamically oscillating, societal norms and values are against the vice-related nature of their businesses (Hong & Kacperczyk, 2009).
More generally, our focus on contested industries is central to the colloquium theme on “surprise in and around organizations” as contested industries operate in an increasingly complex environment, which is full of surprises (mainly unpleasant), and thus, worthwhile to explore further. Thus, we encourage the submission of papers that can examine the complexity and surprise elements of contested industries. We invite papers addressing (but not limited to) the following questions:

  • What defines a contested industry? What are the characteristics of contested industries? These questions explore the definition of contested industries by addressing the underlying reasons why some industries are contested whilst others are not, and the specific characteristics of contested industries (e.g. regulations, tax pressures, litigation, lobbying, mobilization, etc.).

  • Where does contestation originate? Who creates contestation? This question explores the role of professions, society, governments, etc., in the creation of contestation.

  • What is the relation between contestation and (il)legality, and/or between contestation and (il)legitimacy? This question highlights the tension between the legitimate and the legal (or between what’s illegitimate and what’s illegal).

  • What are the different dimensions of contestation? This question aims to dig deeper into the difference between contested industries vs. isolated episodes of contention over an industry (e.g. the oil spill involving British Petroleum in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico).

  • How to empirically study contested industries and how to operationalize contestation? As contestation is reflected by the media, studies that use a content or discourse analysis approach may provide an answer to this question.

  • What is the role of societal evaluations of organizations (e.g. legitimacy, stigma, reputation) in the definition of contestation? Comparative studies on how industries face different levels of contestation by being subject to different societal evaluations could provide an answer to this question.

  • What are the performance implications of contestation? Is there always a “contestation discount” (Hong & Kacperczyk, 2009)? These questions suggest an evaluation of the performance consequences of contestation and of the predictive validity of contestation as a determinant of performance.

  • How/do contested industries create ties with non-contested industries? This question explores whether non-contested industries avoid association with contested industries to protect their business from social scrutiny (Jonsson et al., 2009).

  • What strategies do organizations use to respond to contestation? This question aims to uncover the different strategies used by organizations in contested industries to respond to contestation, as well as the strategies used by potentially contested industries to avoid contestation.



  • Ahrens, D. (2004): Investing in Vice: The Recession-Proof Portfolio of Booze, Bets, Bombs & Butts. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Cai, Y., Jo, H., & Pan, C. (2011): “Doing well while doing bad? CSR in controversial industry sectors.” Journal of Business Ethics, 108 (4), 467–480.
  • Davidson, D.K. (2003): Selling Sin: The Marketing of Socially Unacceptable Products (2nd ed.). Westport: Praeger Publishers.
  • Du, S., & Vieira, E.T. (2012): “Striving for legitimacy through Corporate Social Responsibility: Insights from oil companies.” Journal of Business Ethics, 110 (4), 413–427.
  • Durand, R., & Vergne, J.-P. (2015): “Asset divestment as a response to media attacks in stigmatized industries.” Strategic Management Journal, 36 (8), 1205–1223.
  • Fabozzi, F.J., Ma, K.C., & Oliphant, B.J. (2008): “Sin stock returns.” The Journal of Portfolio Management, 95 (1), 82–94.
  • Gallie, W.B. (1956): "Essentially contested concepts.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 56, 167–198.
  • Galvin, T., Ventresca, M.J., & Hudson, B. (2005): “Contested industry dynamics: New directions in the study of legitimacy.” International Studies of Management & Organization, 34 (4), 56–82.
  • Hong, H., & Kacperczyk, M. (2009): “The price of sin: The effects of social norms on markets.” Journal of Financial Economics, 93 (1), 15–36.
  • Hsu, G., & Grodal, S. (2015): “Category taken-for-grantedness as a strategic opportunity: The case of light cigarettes, 1964 to 1993.” American Sociological Review, 80 (1), 28–62.
  • Jonsson, S., Greve, H.R., & Fujiwara-Greve, T. (2009): “Undeserved loss: The spread of legitimacy loss to innocent organizations in response to reported corporate deviance.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 54 (2), 195–228.
  • Kim, I., & Venkatachalam, M. (2011): “Are sin stocks paying the price for accounting sins?” Journal of Accounting, Auditing & Finance, 26 (2), 415–442.
  • Leventis, S., Hasan, I., & Dedoulis, E. (2013): “The cost of sin: The effect of social norms on audit pricing.” International Review of Financial Analysis, 29, 152–165.
  • Simons, T., Vermeulen, P., & Knoben, J. (2016): “There is no beer without a smoke: Community cohesion and neighboring communities’ effects on organizational resistance to anti smoking regulations in the Dutch hospitality industry.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (2), 545–578.
  • Vergne, J.P. (2012): “Stigmatized categories and public dissaproval of organizations: A mixed methods study of the global arms industry.” Academy of Management Journal, 55 (5), 1027–1052.
  • Wilson, A., & West, C. (1981): “The marketing of ‘unmentionables’.“ Harvard Business Review, 59 (1), 91–102.


Tal Simons is a Professor at the Department of Management, Tilburg School of Economics and Business, Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Her research interests primarily concern dynamics of persistence and change of organizations, organizational forms, populations and categories emphasizing historical dynamics, and drawing on diverse theoretical perspectives. Those are examined in a variety of contexts, such as contested industries and the creative sector among others, using varied methodologies, frequently combining quantitative and qualitative methods and longitudinal designs. Tal’s research has been published in the ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, and ‘Management Science’, among others.
Déborah Philippe is a Professor of Strategy at the Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Her primary research interest concerns how social evaluations, such as legitimacy, status, or stigma, affect organizations’ behavior, with a particular focus on inter-organizational dynamics. Déborah’s research has been published in the ‘Strategic Management Journal’ and ‘Journal of Management Studies’.
Ana M. Aranda is an Asistant Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Católica-Lisbon, Portugal. Ana’s research lies in the intersection between organizational theory and strategy. She explores where institutional pressures and legitimacy threats originate and how they impact the performance of contested industries. Hence, her research intersects with the study of social movements and legal environments as well. Using the empirical setting of the contested industries, Ana’s research combines strategy and organizational theory to theorize and test how institutions shape industry’s strategy and performance.