Re‐Theorizing Change: Institutional Experimentation and the Struggle for Domination in the Field of Public Accounting

30 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2013

Date Written: July 2013

Abstract

Using change theory integrated with Bourdieusian sociology, we re‐theorize a major institutional shift in the field of public accounting. The case we examine involves the consolidation of commercial values in the auditing profession. In reinterpreting this shift, we highlight an institutional process structured around a conflict between commercial innovators and guardians of the professional tradition. Our analysis indicates a peculiar kind of institutional work, wherein economic capital is reinforced at the field level while the logic of commercialism is strengthened in accounting firms' structures and practitioners' mindset. From our studying of the field of accountancy, we develop the concept of institutional experimentation in order to offer a view of institutional work as a fragile and unpredictable process. Specifically, the latter is subject to trials and tests by actors involved in a series of more or less connected experiments in trying to extend their professional jurisdiction through institutional innovation, while seeking to consolidate the traditional foundations of their jurisdictional legitimacy through institutional reproduction. Our paper also challenges the notion of organizational archetypes. While a focus on the firms' formal organizational parameters may suggest archetypical stability, the picture is more complex when one takes into account processes of institutional experimentation and the duality of institutional change and stability.

Keywords: Bourdieu, change, commercialization, institutional experimentation, institutional work, professional service firms

Suggested Citation

Malsch, Bertrand and Gendron, Yves, Re‐Theorizing Change: Institutional Experimentation and the Struggle for Domination in the Field of Public Accounting (July 2013). Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 50, Issue 5, pp. 870-899, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2280960 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joms.12006

Yves Gendron

Université Laval ( email )

Faculte des sciences de l'administration
2325 rue de la Terrasse, Local 2636
Quebec City, Quebec G1V 0A6
Canada
418-656-2131 ext. 2431 (Phone)
418-656-7746 (Fax)

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