In Search of Identity and Legitimation: Bridging Organizational Culture and Neoinstitutionalism
Special issue of American Behavioral Scientist, Volume 49, Number 7, March 2006
11 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2014
Date Written: 2006
In the late 1970s, neoinstitutional and organizational culture theorists challenged prevailing rationalist organizational paradigms by introducing social constructionism to the field of organizations. Despite their common foundation, these approaches built on seemingly contradictory empirical observations. Institutionalists observed that organizations actively copy one another’s practices, resulting in substantial isomorphism, whereas culture theorists observed that organizations institutionalize distinctive cultures comprising practices that set them apart from others. These seemingly contradictory findings reflect processes of organizational identity formation and interorganizational construction of legitimacy as they have evolved since the rise of the corporate form in the 19th century. Formation of identity through uniqueness and construction of legitimacy through uniformity are two sides of the same coin. Research on management schools suggests organizations pursue individuation through uniqueness and legitimacy through commonality simultaneously and that organizations bridge the two processes in four ways, which the authors dub imitation, hybridization, transmutation, and immunization.
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