Rhetorical Strategies of Legitimacy

Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 50, Issue 1, pp. 35-67, 2005

University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2013-512

Posted: 5 Jun 2013

See all articles by Roy Suddaby

Roy Suddaby

Peter B Gustavson School of Business

Royston Greenwood

University of Alberta - Department of Strategic Management and Organization

Date Written: March 1, 2004

Abstract

This paper describes the role of rhetoric in legitimating profound institutional change. In 1997, a Big Five accounting firm purchased a law firm, triggering a jurisdictional struggle within accounting and law over a new organizational form, multidisciplinary partnerships. We analyze the discursive struggle that ensued between proponents and opponents of the new organizational form. We observe that such rhetorical strategies contain two elements. First are institutional vocabularies, or the use of identifying words and referential texts to expose contradictory institutional logics embedded in historical understandings of professionalism, one based on a trustee model and the other based on a model of expertise. A second element of rhetorical strategies is theorizations of change by which actors contest a proposed innovation against broad templates or scenarios of change. We identify five such theorizations of change (teleological, historical, cosmological, ontological, and value-based) and describe their characteristics.

Suggested Citation

Suddaby, Roy Robert and Greenwood, Royston, Rhetorical Strategies of Legitimacy (March 1, 2004). Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 50, Issue 1, pp. 35-67, 2005, University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2013-512, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2274409

Roy Robert Suddaby (Contact Author)

Peter B Gustavson School of Business ( email )

Victoria, British Columbia
Canada
250-721-6401 (Phone)

Royston Greenwood

University of Alberta - Department of Strategic Management and Organization ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada

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