Values and Standards Organizations in a Nascent Market

43 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2013

Date Written: October 1, 2010


While new institutionalists have demonstrated the importance of field-level actors in constructing and enforcing various institutional rules, most research in this area depicts such organizations as neutral or independent arbiters. In this paper, we challenge the notion that field-level organizations are value-free, and investigate how values shape standards organizations in fields. Drawing on a field analytical case study of the U.S. organic food industry, we show how the values of holism and scientism differentially shaped the creation of different kinds of standards organizations linked to different producer communities — activist, small farmers versus large agribusiness concerns. We marshal qualitative and quantitative evidence to chronicle how this unfolds both spatially and temporally, providing an account of the influence of movement values on the creation of broader-scale markets. In contrast to the literature on institutionalization that emphasizes the co-optation of movement participants and values, our research suggests that movements provide values that structure action and initiate legacies that become embedded in institutional elements that guide and enable future behavior—in our case, organic standards organizations. We discuss the implications of this study of values and standards organizations for research at the interface of social movements, organization, and institutional dynamics.

Suggested Citation

Lee, Brandon H., Values and Standards Organizations in a Nascent Market (October 1, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Brandon H. Lee (Contact Author)

Melbourne Business School ( email )

200 Leicester Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053 3186

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