Dynamic persistence of institutions: Modeling the endurance of public housing after Red Vienna, 1870–2009

50 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2022 Last revised: 22 Jun 2023

See all articles by Christof Brandtner

Christof Brandtner

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation; University of Chicago - Department of Sociology; EM Lyon (Ecole de Management de Lyon)

Parham Ashur

EM Lyon (Ecole de Management de Lyon) - Emlyon Business School

Bhargav Srinivasa Desikan

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Date Written: November 15, 2022

Abstract

The endurance of shared meanings that shape individual behaviors is a central feature of organizational life, but many organization studies reduce the persistence of institutions to the dearth of change. We argue that institutions can endure precisely because how they are instantiated embedded in wider meaning structures changes. We conceptualize and operationalize such dynamic persistence by combining two disconnected research programs. Organization scholars of institutional change, on one hand, emphasize that changing meanings influence how organizations operate because institutions are dynamic rather than static. Nevertheless, qualitative studies cannot map the broader context of changing institutions comprehensively. Cultural sociologists, on the other hand, have developed quantitative methods based on co-occurrence that show how ideas are embedded in meaning structures. But formal models of culture fail to capture the dynamism of changing meanings of terms and concepts over time. We suggest that institutional persistence can result from changes in how that institution is instantiated as observable patterns of interactions at any given time. Dynamic topic models can overcome the theory-method gap in considering both institutions and their instantiations. We develop three diagnostic measures that allow tracking change in large corpora. To illustrate our argument and indicators, we draw on a 140-year corpus of reports issued by the City of Vienna to show that the persistence of public housing as an institution was only possible due to periodically changing instantiations and affiliations with broader meanings. Our paper contributes a dynamic and contextual approach to studies of institutional persistence that will allow future research to test theory-led expectations about persistence and change in big text data. We conclude with insights for studying temporal and geographic heterogeneity when institutions change.

Keywords: Persistence, Institutional change, Meaning, Structural studies of culture, Dynamic topic models, Content analysis, Text as data, City administration. Public housing

Suggested Citation

Brandtner, Christof and Ashur, Parham and Srinivasa Desikan, Bhargav, Dynamic persistence of institutions: Modeling the endurance of public housing after Red Vienna, 1870–2009 (November 15, 2022). Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation Research Paper 32, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4277817 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4277817

Christof Brandtner (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation ( email )

5735 S Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

University of Chicago - Department of Sociology ( email )

23 Avenue Guy de Collongue
Écully
France

EM Lyon (Ecole de Management de Lyon) ( email )

23 Ave Guy de Collongue
Ecully, 69134
France

Parham Ashur

EM Lyon (Ecole de Management de Lyon) - Emlyon Business School ( email )

23 Avenue Guy de Collongue
Écully, 69130
France

Bhargav Srinivasa Desikan

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne ( email )

Switzerland

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