Institutional Theory and the Natural Environment: Building Research Through Tensions and Paradoxes

R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. Lawrence and R. Meyer (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism, 2nd edition (London: Sage Publications): 759-785, 2017

Ross School of Business Paper No. 1312

51 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2016 Last revised: 28 Sep 2017

See all articles by P. Devereaux Jennings

P. Devereaux Jennings

University of Alberta - Department of Strategic Management and Organization

Andrew John Hoffman

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Date Written: 2017

Abstract

The focus of institutional theory is directed towards an understanding of situations where context is strong and binding, yet subtly experienced; where agency is often diffuse, embodied in an arrangement or system of actors rather than in an individual; and where action and inaction both matter, if in often unpredictable ways. One area in which these phenomena are notably pronounced is research in the area of the interaction between institutional systems and the workings of the natural environment; the ways in which human societies both understand their interface with that environment, and the ways in which the actions of one impact the other. In this chapter, we offer an overview of that domain of research, tracing the evolution of efforts at combining the two since its beginnings in the early 1990s. We use prior reviews, a literature search, and our knowledge of the field to consider past and current work in Institutional Theory and the Natural Environment (ITNE). We structure that inquiry around the notion that fruitful research has come from tensions – indeed, at times, paradoxes - that exist from trying to combine institutional theory with natural environment studies. Below we discuss the tensions and paradoxes inherent in ITNE work and then examine how that work has been propelled forward by these tensions; all at the ontological, epistemological, and normative levels. With that as a basis for examining past and present studies, we then turn to a new future challenge for ITNE: combining institutional complexity research with environmental and geophysical studies in the era of the Anthropocene.

Keywords: Institutional Theory, The Natural Environment, Anthropocene

Suggested Citation

Jennings, P. Devereaux and Hoffman, Andrew John, Institutional Theory and the Natural Environment: Building Research Through Tensions and Paradoxes (2017). R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. Lawrence and R. Meyer (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism, 2nd edition (London: Sage Publications): 759-785, 2017 ; Ross School of Business Paper No. 1312. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2767551 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2767551

P. Devereaux Jennings

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

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada

Andrew John Hoffman (Contact Author)

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street, R4390
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States
734.763.9455 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.andrewhoffman.net/

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