Sub-theme 54: Re-invigorating Institutional Approaches to Power and Politics: Populism, Post-truth, and the Social Destruction of Reality

Santi Furnari
City, University of London, United Kingdom
Bryant A. Hudson
IESEG School of Management, France
Juliane Reinecke
King’s College London, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

It is a well-rehearsed lament that institutional theories lack attention to power and politics (e.g., Munir, 2015; Hudson et al., 2015), leading recent studies to address this neglect (e.g., Sadeh & Zilber, 2019). At its core, the promise of institutional analysis lies in its ability to unveil the constitutive role of culture and institutions in shaping the content and process of power and politics (e.g., Lounsbury & Wang, 2020; Friedland, 2009), going beyond a material and resource-centred conception of power (e.g., Pfeffer & Salancick, 2003 [1978]). This means unpacking how power emerges through institutional processes and mechanisms, such as collective framing (e.g., Reinecke & Ansari, 2020; Furnari, 2018), cultural entrepreneurship (e.g., Lounsbury & Glynn, 2019) or bottom-up processes of practice emergence (e.g., Smets et al, 2017; Furnari, 2014).
A reinvigorated institutional approach to power and politics is badly needed today, given the re-emergence of populism and authoritarianism, the proliferation of conspiracy theories and fake news over social media, culture wars, the rise of surveillance capitalism, as well as digital echo chambers driving polarization and undermining the experience of a shared world. These developments may eventually produce “institutional breakdowns” and are interconnected facets of a broader phenomenon which we call, to paraphrase Berger and Luckmann (1966)’s seminal text, “the social destruction of reality”, i.e. the collective process by which the validity and facticity of once-established institutions (such as the media, the professions, democracy, etc.) are questioned, attacked and negated. In fact, in a less famous text Berger and Luckmann (1995) themselves prefigured that the “crisis of meaning” of contemporary society may indeed stem from questioning what counts as “a fact” and the validity of institutions. The social destruction of reality challenges the very “existence” of institutions and organizations as “social facts” (Durkheim, 1982 [1895]).
The social destruction of reality points to the centrality of culture and symbols in constituting and (re-)surfacing forms of politics and power now shaking established institutions. This points to how forms of power are underpinned by the role of aesthetics (Creed et al., 2020), emotions and images (e.g., Barberá-Tomás et al., 2019) or spectacles of power (Flyverbom & Reinecke, 2017), as well as new forms of power, such as data-driven instrumentarian power (Zuboff, 2019), and the celebrity politics of fame and attention polarization through algorithmic dynamics on Twitter, Tiktok and the likes.
To foster and expand institutional approaches to power and politics, and further the conversation on the social destruction of reality, in this sub-theme we invite papers that pay attention to the institutional antecedents, mechanisms and consequences underlying old and new forms of power and politics, such as populism, the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories, post-truth politics, data colonialism and surveillance capitalism, culture wars, the re-emergence of identity social movements such as Black Lives Matter and the #metoo movement, among other relevant political phenomena. More specifically, we invite papers that expand the frontiers of institutional research and address (but are not necessarily limited to) the following broad research questions and puzzles:

  • What institutional antecedents, processes and mechanisms underlie the increasing polarization of discourse and the fragmentation of the public sphere? And what are the consequences of such polarization on the institutions of contemporary society?

  • What institutions underlie contemporary political phenomena such as the diffusion of fake news, conspiracy theories, populisms and authoritarianisms? In what ways are these institutions different from historical manifestations of similar phenomena in the past?

  • What are the organizational implications of the “institutional breakdowns” and the crisis of trust in contemporary institutions provoked by the re-emergence of forms of adversarial politics such as populism and authoritarianism?

  • What are “new” forms of power? For instance, what role do algorithms play in concentrating attention and creating reach on Twitter, Tiktok and the like?

  • What is the role of manipulating or engaging social emotions such as anger and shame in enhancing, exercising, or resisting power in institutional settings?

  • What is the role of social media, digital technologies and platforms in enabling or constituting new forms of power and politics? What is the relationship between these new technologies, their forms of power and institutions?

  • How do data-driven digital infrastructures create new standards of normalcy and cultural classifications, and what are the impacts? How might new forms of algorithmic discrimination and automated inequality become institutionalized?

  • How can organizations and groups counter-act the (re-)emergence of authoritarian and/or instrumentarian forms of power and adversarial politics? What organizing and collective action efforts can restore trust in institutions such as the state and democracy?

We advocate methodological and theoretical pluralism, welcoming papers that use any qualitative, quantitative, or mixed method; and any theoretical perspective.


  • Barberá-Tomás, D., Castelló, I., De Bakker, F.G., & Zietsma, C. (2019): “Energizing through visuals: How social entrepreneurs use emotion-symbolic work for social change.” Academy of Management Journal, 62 (6), 1789–1817.
  • Berger, P.L., & Luckmann, T. (1966): The Social Construction of Reality. London: Penguin Books.
  • Berger, P.L., & Luckmann, T. (1995): Modernity, Pluralism and the Crisis of Meaning. Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers.
  • Creed, W.E.D., Taylor, S., & Hudson, B.A. (2020): “Institutional aesthetics: Embodied ways of encountering, evaluating, and enacting institutions.” Organization Studies, 41 (3), 415–435.
  • Durkheim, E. (1982 [1895]): The Rules of Sociological Method. New York: Free Press.
  • Flyverbom, M., & Reinecke, J. (2017): “The Spectacle and Organization Studies.” Organization Studies, 38 (11), 1625–1643.
  • Furnari, S. (2014): “Interstitial spaces: Microinteraction settings and the genesis of new practices between institutional fields.” Academy of Management Review, 39 (4), 439–462.
  • Furnari, S. (2018): “When does an issue trigger change in a field? A comparative approach to issue frames, field structures and types of field change.” Human Relations, 71 (3), 321–348.
  • Friedland, R. (2009): “The endless fields of Pierre Bourdieu.” Organization, 16 (6), 887–917.
  • Hudson, B.A., Okhuysen, G.A., & Creed, W.D. (2015): “Power and institutions: Stones in the road and some yellow bricks.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 24 (3), 233–238.
  • Lounsbury, M., & Glynn, M.A. (2019): Cultural Entrepreneurship: A New Agenda for the Study of Entrepreneurial Processes and Possibilities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lounsbury, M., & Wang, M.S. (2020): “Into the Clearing: Back to the future of constitutive institutional analysis.” Organization Theory, 1 (1), 1–27.
  • Munir, K.A. (2015): “A loss of power in institutional theory.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 24 (1), 90–92.
  • Pfeffer, J., & Salancik, G.R. (2003 [1978]): The External Control of Organizations: A Resource Dependence Perspective. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Reinecke, J., & Ansari, S. (2020): “Microfoundations of Framing: The Interactional Production of Collective Action Frames in the Occupy Movement.” Academy of Management Journal, 64 (2), 1–31.
  • Sadeh, L.J., & Zilber, T.B. (2019): “Bringing ‘together’: Emotions and power in organizational responses to institutional complexity.” Academy of Management Journal, 62 (5), 1413–1443.
  • Smets, M., Aristidou, A., & Whittington, R. (2017): “Towards a practice-driven institutionalism.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T.B. Lawrence & R. Meyer (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. London: SAGE Publications, 384–411.
  • Zuboff, S. (2019): “Surveillance Capitalism and the Challenge of Collective Action.” New Labor Forum, 28 (1), 10–29.
Santi Furnari is Professor of Strategy at Bayes Business School, City, University of London, United Kingdom. He studies the emergence of fields and practices, organizational configurations and business models. Santi’s research has been published in journals such as the ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Industrial and Corporate Change’, ‘Journal of Management’, and ‘Organization Studies’, among others.
Bryant A. Hudson is Professor of Management at IESEG School of Management, Paris, France. He studies organizations that serve the marginalized, managing organizational stigma, stigmatized emotions in institutional processes, organizational scandals, and knowledge taboos. Bryant has published in ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Organization Science’, and ‘Organization Studies’, among others.
Juliane Reinecke is Professor of International Management and Sustainability at King’s Business School, King’s College London, United Kingdom. Juliane’s research draws on insights from organization theory, political philosophy and process studies to explore, broadly speaking, how transnational governance institutions emerge and evolve as a result of the interactions of multiple stakeholders to promote more just and sustainable forms of globalization in global supply chains, but also organizations in general. Her work has been published in journals such as ‘Organization Theory’, ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘Organization’, among others.