Revisiting the Foundations of Institutional Analysis: A Phenomenological Perspective
Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Forthcoming
40 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2009 Last revised: 1 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 19, 2020
The concept of institution has been used by scholars from across a number of disciplines to explain a wide variety of phenomena. However, the philosophical roots of this concept have not been well examined, nor have implications for contemporary institutional analysis been fully appreciated. Returning to the works of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty reveals a depth of thinking that has otherwise been overlooked by institutional theorists. In particular, my analysis reveals two critical insights. First, whereas organizational scholars have closely linked the concepts of institution and taken-for-grantedness, these two concepts were originally understood to be phenomenologically distinct. Second, a detailed examination of Merleau-Ponty’s later work poses the concept of flesh—the twining of the visible and the invisible—as the basis for the interplay of institutions. In turn, the idea of flesh as the foundation of institution invites a more radical reimagining of the growing bifurcation between micro and macro foundations.
Keywords: phenomenology, institutional theory, taken-for-grantedness
JEL Classification: B15, B25, B52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation