Organizational Legitimacy: Six Key Questions

Deephouse, D. L., Bundy, J., Tost, L. P., & Suchman, M. C. 2017. Organizational Legitimacy: Six Key Questions. In R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. Lawrence, & R. Meyer (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism (2nd ed.): Thousand Oaks CA: Sage, Forthcoming

University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2016-901

43 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2016 Last revised: 14 Dec 2016

See all articles by David L. Deephouse

David L. Deephouse

Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta

Jonathan Bundy

Arizona State University (ASU) - Management Department

Leigh Plunkett Tost

University of Washington - Foster School of Business; University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Mark C. Suchman

Brown University

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

Legitimacy is a fundamental concept of organizational institutionalism. It influences how organizations behave and has been shown to affect their performance and survival (Pollock & Rindova, 2003; Singh, Tucker, & House, 1986). As developed in organizational institutionalism the term has spread widely across the social sciences, and because of this, our current understandings of legitimacy and how it is managed are much more nuanced and elaborate than portrayed in early institutional accounts. In this chapter, we seek to bring greater clarity and order to the growing and sometimes confusing literature, focusing on the conceptualization of legitimacy itself and how it changes over time.

This chapter builds from the previous edition (Deephouse & Suchman, 2008, available online at www.sage.org/organizational institutionalism/legitimacy). In updating that chapter we reviewed 1299 publications and conference papers that had the string “legitim” in the title, abstract, or keywords. Reflecting the reach and power of legitimacy, these publications included books and a wide range of journals and across a wide range of disciplines (e.g., communication, political science, public administration, and sociology -- not just management). Our goal was both to identify both broad trends in theory and research and possible theoretical innovations and also to highlight important applications for scholars in organizational institutionalism. From this review we identified six central questions around which this chapter is arranged: What is organizational legitimacy? Why does legitimacy matter? Who confers legitimacy, and how? What criteria are used (for making legitimacy evaluations)? How does legitimacy change over time? These questions are shown in Figure 1.1. Our final section asks “Where do we go from here?” and offers suggestions for future research.

Suggested Citation

Deephouse, David L. and Bundy, Jonathan and Tost, Leigh Plunkett and Suchman, Mark C., Organizational Legitimacy: Six Key Questions (2016). Deephouse, D. L., Bundy, J., Tost, L. P., & Suchman, M. C. 2017. Organizational Legitimacy: Six Key Questions. In R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. Lawrence, & R. Meyer (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism (2nd ed.): Thousand Oaks CA: Sage, Forthcoming; University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2016-901. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2849636

David L. Deephouse (Contact Author)

Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada
780 492-5419 (Phone)
780 492-3325 (Fax)

Jonathan Bundy

Arizona State University (ASU) - Management Department ( email )

Tempe, AZ 85287-4006
United States

Leigh Plunkett Tost

University of Washington - Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353200
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

Mark C. Suchman

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
860
rank
26,351
Abstract Views
2,631
PlumX Metrics