Sub-theme 59: Regulating Organizations: Re-Examining the Intersections between States and Businesses -> HYBRID sub-theme!

Florian Überbacher
Montpellier Business School, France
Elke Schüßler
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
Arno Kourula
University of Amsterdam Business School, The Netherlands

Call for Papers

The regulatory environment of organizations has been an important and longstanding topic for management scholars (e.g. Edelman & Suchman, 1997; Aragon-Correa, Marcus, & Vogel, 2020; Greve, Palmer, & Pozner, 2010; Schneiberg & Bartley, 2008; Huising & Silbey, 2018).
Recently, organizational scholars have shown particular interest in private forms of regulation, especially in the context of corporate responsibility and global governance. These involve the development and mobilization of regulatory instruments by private actors such as nongovernmental organizations, social movements, or lead organizations themselves. They entail attempts at persuading and educating targeted organizations, the development of standards, principles, ratings, certifications, multi-stakeholder initiatives, and other types of ‘soft law’ (e.g. Djelic & Quack, 2018; King & Lenox, 2000; Scherer & Palazzo, 2011, Vogel, 2008), as well as more binding forms such as global framework agreements or transnational accords (e.g. Ashwin et al., 2020; Helfen & Sydow, 2013; Schuessler et al., 2023). Several studies have shown, however, that private forms of regulation only work under certain, narrowly circumscribed conditions that companies, industries, and settings often do not fulfill (e.g. Mayer & Gereffi, 2010; Toffel et al., 2015). Private regulation has also been criticized as a capitalist, neoliberal project spurred by corporate interests that aims at preventing public and state-based forms of regulation and governance (cf. Kaplan, 2023; Wright & Nyberg, 2015).
As a consequence, many have called for public, hard law-based forms of regulation to come (back) in to manage society’s big challenges and transformations (e.g. Kourula et al., 2019; Bodrozic & Adler, 2022; Mazzucato, 2021; Zuboff, 2019). Several states have thus been attempting, e.g., to make ‘corporate social responsibility’ mandatory (e.g. Lin, 2020; Delalieux et al., 2023), to improve corporate transparency (e.g. Sharkey et al., 2023), to more tightly regulate platform and internet companies (e.g. Frenken et al., 2020), to make companies accountable for human rights or environmental issues along their supply chains (e.g. Amengual & Bartley, 2022), or to extraterritorially enforce national laws against companies abroad (Überbacher & Scherer, 2020). Yet, also public regulators are working under enormous constraints – such as, lacking political support, concerns about their image and legitimacy, resource scarcity, regulatory capture, or limited collaboration between regulatory authorities within or across countries (e.g. Dorobantu et al., 2017; Guillen & Capron, 2016; Heese et al., 2016; Hiatt & Park, 2013; Piazza et al., 2023)  – that may hamper their regulatory capacity (Baron & Lyon, 2013). As a consequence, regulators may not be sufficiently able or motivated to monitor companies, pursue criminal investigations, or impose sufficiently deterring sanctions. In new institutionalist terms: we may be overestimating state actorhood (Meyer & Jepperson, 2000)
At the same time, the world is now at a crossroads. We are facing grand challenges in the form of enormous environmental, social and political problems to which companies and capitalism have contributed a fair share. In the light of these developments, we would – perhaps more urgently than ever – need a functioning regulatory and legal environment that motivates companies to recover the damages caused and contribute towards making our world more sustainable. But how should such a ‘better’ and ‘smarter’ regulatory system look like and how should regulatory processes be organized?
To address these questions, the aim of this subtheme is to invite scholarship that seeks to integrate, extend or contradict regulatory and organizational research in novel ways. Novel descriptive and normative theories of regulation and compliance have been developed in such disciplines as law, regulation, criminology, ethics, or political science (e.g. Drahos, 2017; Levi-Faur, 2012, van Rooij & Sokol, 2021), and these have been applied and extended by organizational scholars only in limited ways. At the same time, organization and management research has made advancements and has created insights that, as of yet, have hardly informed regulatory scholars’ debates about the legal and regulatory environments of organizations. This also includes renewed attention to “the State” as a complex organizational actor operating in often conflicting, siloed ministries or – for better or worse – following a rather rigid and conservative state bureaucratic logic (e.g. Grandy & Hiatt, 2020; McDonnel, 2017). The purpose of this subtheme is thus help update our understanding of organizational regulation and the regulation of organizations in ways that allows making contributions to – and fresh connections between – organization and regulatory scholarship and to address the challenges that society and the environment are facing.
Some potential directions which are interesting from the perspective of this sub-theme:
New regulatory logics and regimes:

  • Rise (and fall?) of ‘free’ market-focused regulatory logics

  • Imagination and implementation of alternative regulatory logics

  • New ways of prosecuting, sanctioning, and deterring deviant organizations

  • Interfaces of political science, organization theory and regulation design perspectives

Revisiting the relationships between regulators and business:

  • New discourses of business-government relations

  • Lobbying for and against business regulations

  • Regulatory capture, revolving doors and careers across business and regulators

  • Cat and mouse games between regulators and regulatees and how they can be prevented

Crossing governance regimes:

  • Dynamism between voluntary and mandatory regulation across levels of analysis

  • Tensions between national and transnational regulation

  • Transnational governance and international business regulation in a world of geopolitical jockeying and multipolarity

Regulatory actors at a crossroads:

  • Sources of and limits to state actorhood and power in regulatory processes

  • Conflict and collaboration between different types of regulatory actors

  • Cities/municipalities, regions and nation states as relevant regulatory contexts for organizing transitions and addressing grand challenges

  • Old and new actors in shaping binding forms of regulation, such as trade unions or the young generations



  • Amengual, M., & T. Bartley (2022). Global markets, corporate assurances, and the legitimacy of state intervention: Perceptions of distant labor and environmental problems. American Sociological Review, 87(3), 383-414.
  • Aragon-Correa, J. A., Marcus, A. A., & D. Vogel (2020). The effects of mandatory and voluntary regulatory pressures on firms’ environmental strategies: A review and recommendations for future research. Academy of Management Annals 14(1), 339-365.
  • Ashwin, S., Kabeer, N., & Schüßler, E. (2020). Contested understandings in the global garment industry after Rana Plaza. Development and Change51(5), 1296-1305.
  • Baron, D. P., & T. P. Lyon (2013). Environmental Governance. In P. Bansal, & A. J. Hoffman (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Business and the Natural Environment: 122-139. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Bodrožić, Z., & S. Adler, P. (2022). Alternative futures for the digital transformation: A macro-level Schumpeterian perspective. Organization Science33(1), 105-125.
  • Delalieux, G., Koroula, A., & Pezet, E. (2023). Civil society roles in CSR legislation. Journal of Business Ethics, Article in press.
  • Djelic, M. L., & S. Quack (2018). Globalization and business regulation. Annual Review of Sociology, 44, 122-143.
  • Dorobantu, S., Kaul, A., & B. Zelner (2017). Nonmarket strategy research through the lens of new institutional economics: An integrative review and future directions. Strategic Management Journal, 38, 114-140.
  • Drahos, P. (2017). Regulatory theory: Foundations and applications. Acton: Austrian National University Press.
  • Edelman, L.B., & M. S. Suchman. (1997). The legal environments of organizations. Annual Review of Sociology, 23, 479-515.
  • Frenken, K., van Waes, A., Pelzer, P., Smink, M., & R. van Est. (2019). Safeguarding public interests in the platform economy. Policy & Internet, 12(3), 400-425.
  • Grandy, J. B., & Hiatt, S. R. (2020). State Agency Discretion and Entrepreneurship in Regulated Markets. Administrative Science Quarterly, 65: 1092-1131.
  • Greve, H., Palmer, D., Pozner, J. E. (2010). Organizations Gone Wild: The Causes, Processes, and Consequences of Organizational Misconduct. Academy of Management Annals, 4(1): 53-107.
  • Guillen, M. F., & L. Capron. (2016). State capacity, minority shareholder protections, and stock market development. Administrative Science Quarterly, 61(1), 125-160.
  • Helfen, M., & Sydow, J. (2013). Negotiating as institutional work: The case of labour standards and international framework agreements. Organization Studies34(8), 1073-1098.
  • Hiatt, S. R., & Park, S. (2013). Lords of the harvest: Third-party influence and regulatory approval of genetically modified organisms. Academy of Management Journal, 56(4): 923-944.
  • Heese, J., Krishnan, R., & Moers, F. (2016). Selective Regulator Decoupling and Organizations’ Strategic Responses. Academy of Management Journal, 59(6): 2178–2204.
  • Huising, R., & S. S. Silbey. (2018). From nudge to culture and back again: Coalface governance in the regulated organization. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 14, 91-114.
  • Kaplan, R. (2023). “Rather Than Follow Change, Business Must Lead this Transformation”: Global business’s institutional project to privatize global environmental governance, 1990–2010. Organization Studies, in press.
  • King, A. A., & M. J. Lenox. (2000). Industry self-regulation without sanctions: The chemical industry’s responsible care program. Academy of Management Journal, 43(4), 698-716.
  • Kourula, A., Moon, J., Salles-Djelic, M. L., & C. Wickert. (2019). New roles of government in the governance of business conduct: Implications for management and organizational research. Organization Studies, 40(8), 1101-1123.
  • Levi-Faur, D. (2012). Oxford Handbook of Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Lin, L. W. (2020). Mandatory corporate social responsibility legislation around the world: Emergent varieties and national experiences. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law, 23(2), 429-469.
  • Mayer, F., & G. Gereffi. (2010). Regulation and economic globalization: Prospects and limits of private governance. Business and Politics, 12(3), 1-26.
  • Mazzucato, M. (2021). Mission economy: A moonshot guide to changing capitalism. New York: Harper Business.
  • McDonnel, E. M. (2017). Patchwork Leviathan: How pockets of bureaucratic governance flourish within institutionally diverse developing states. American Sociological Review, 82(3), 476-510.
  • Meyer, J. W., & Jepperson, R. L. (2000). The ‘actors’ of modern society: The cultural construction of social agency. Sociological Theory, 18(1), 100-120.
  • Piazza, A., Bergemann, P., & Helms, W. (2023). Getting Away with It (Or Not): The Social Control of Organizational Deviance. Academy of Management Review, in press.
  • Scherer, A.G., & Palazzo, G. (2011). The New Political Role of Business in a Globalized World: A Review of a New Perspective on CSR and its Implications for the Firm, Governance, and Democracy. Journal of Management Studies, 48(4): 899-931.
  • Schneiberg, M., & T. Bartley. (2008). Organizations, regulation, and economic behavior: Regulatory dynamics and forms from the nineteenth to twenty-first century. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 4, 31-61.
  • Schüßler, E., Lohmeyer, N., & S. Ashwin. (2022). “We can’t compete on human rights”: Creating market-protected spaces to institutionalize the emerging logic of responsible management. Academy of Management Journal, in press.
  • Sharkey, A., Pontikes, E., & G. Hsu. (2022). The impact of mandated pay gap transparency on firms’ reputations as employers. Administrative Science Quarterly, in press.
  • Toffel, M. W., Short, J. L., & M. Ouellet. (2015). Codes in context: How states, markets, and civil society shape adherence to global labor standards. Regulation & Governance, 9, 205-223.
  • Überbacher, F., & A. G. Scherer. (2020). Indirect compellence and institutional change: US extraterritorial law enforcement and the erosion of Swiss banking secrecy. Administrative Science Quarterly, 65(3), 565-605.
  • Wright, C., & Nyberg, D. (2015). Climate change, capitalism, and corporations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Van Rooij, B., & D. D. Sokol. (2021). The Cambridge Handbook of Compliance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Vogel, D. (2008). Private global business regulation. Annual Review of Political Science, 11, 261-282.
  • Zuboff, S. (2019). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. New York: Public Affairs.
Florian Überbacher is an Associate Professor at Montpellier Business School, France. His research interests involve organization theory, institutional theory, regulation and governance, and business-government relations. Florian has published his research in ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Organization Studies’ and other outlets.
Elke Schüßler is Professor of Business Administration, in particular Entrepreneurship, at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany. Her work examines societal transformation processes related to globalization, digitalization, and the climate crisis, paying particular attention to organizational and institutional innovation as well as changes in the organization of work. Elke’s work has been published in ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘Socio-Economic Review’, among others.
Arno Kourula is Professor of Business & Sustainability and Co-Chair of the Strategy & International Business Section at University of Amsterdam Business School, The Netherlands, and Docent at Aalto University, Finland. His research focus is corporate sustainability from a cross-sector perspective (between business, government and civil society). Arno’s work has been published in ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Research Policy’, ‘Regulation & Governance’, and ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, among others.