institutional logics: a response from ocasio, thornton & lounsbury
A late response to the very interesting conversation.
Pat, Mike, and I are currently writing a new chapter on the institutional logics perspective (ILP) for a revised Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. Elizabeth’s blog is timely to prompt us to clarify some points.
(1) In our 2012 book we envisioned ILP to be a scientific research program, one which builds on, but differs from the scientific research program of neoinstitutional theory. The introductory chapter draws on Berger and Zelditch (1993), Stanford theoreticians who were influenced by Lakatos’s goals in understanding scientific progress through research programs.
(2) Our ontological claim is that institutional logics are real phenomena. Institutional logics are real the same way bureaucracy is real and culture is real. We understand that not all users of ILP follow a realist ontology.
(3) The ideal types are not the institutional logics per se but an analytical representation of the logics. Here is an area where we have heard much misunderstanding of what we intended and perhaps we were not clear. The societal ideal types in our 2012 book provide an ideal-typical model of societal-level logics from a reading of canonical texts such as Weber’s Economy and Society and contemporary organization theory. They are meant to be an example and not the only possible model. The cells are intended to vary significantly based on specific research questions and specific instantiations. Other forms of representing and measuring logics beside ideal types are both possible and desirable, for example relying on vocabularies of practice.
(4) As noted throughout our work, institutional logics are historically contingent. Institutional orders and their corresponding logics evolve and change over time. There is very little research that examines historical change in logics within an institutional order, most is comparing across institutional orders, though this research is starting to emerge.
(5) ILP as a scientific research program seeks to uncover mechanisms that explain their origin, translation, transformation, and consequences. Cumulative knowledge about institutional logics is based on the accumulation of knowledge about the underlying mechanisms, not primarily on whether the same instantiations of logics are observed across contexts. One broad empirical finding that has been found is that the market logics have greatly increased in instantiations across contexts, (Thornton, Ocasio and Lounsbury, 2015, Emerging Trends in the Social Sciences by Wiley). But as Elizabeth’s works suggests this instantiation is not an isomorphic diffusion, but is subject to translation across contexts and hybridization with other logics.
(6) Institutional logics are cross-level phenomena and can be observed at different levels of analysis: societal, field, and organizational. There are top-down, bottom-up and horizontal mechanisms by which institutional logics at different levels affect one another. More research is needed on these cross-level effects and on the differences and similarities in logics across different levels.
(7) The meta-theory presented in the 2012 book outlined some mechanisms to explain the cross-level dynamics of institutional logics. The perspective differs from a purely structural or purely agentic meta-theory. ILP is not a closed-formed theory, although closed -form theories have been and will continue to be developed from the meta-theory.
(8) ILP has been quite generative of research hypotheses, propositions, and theory so far, and over time the generativity of the research program will prove its continued usefulness and scientific progress or not (Berger and Zelditch, 1993). Time will tell as to the generality of theory and conceptual mechanisms. Scope conditions may develop around mechanisms by which logics become instantiated and have effects—generalizable bits of theory (mechanisms) that are good across space and time subject to scope conditions. Individual mechanisms might end up becoming components of a broader category of mechanisms a la Tilly.
Willie, Pat, and Mike