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