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School of Business and Management

Seminar: The neo-Durkheimian Institutional Approach: its Contribution to Management and Organisation Studies

25 May 2016

Time: 1:00 - 5:00pm


Room 4.26, Bancroft Building, Mile End campus

Speaker names & affiliations

Brendon Swedlow, Department of Political Science, Northern Illinois University.

Tom Entwistle, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University.

Philip Shrives, Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, Newcastle.

Philip Linsley, York Management School, University of York.

Danielle Logue, UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney.

Seminar title

The neo-Durkheimian institutional approach: its contribution to management and organisation studies


Perri 6

Introduction to the seminar 

A brief introduction to the speakers, the tradition, the purposes of the seminar, and the associated other events of the rest of the week at UCL for researchers interested in uses of the approach.

Perri 6 and Brendon Swedlow 

A theory of institutions, cultural bias, and public administration 

The theory of institutions, cultural bias, and public administration which is the subject of this presentation has several variants, among them grid-group theory, cultural theory, grid-group cultural theory, neo-Durkheimian institutional theory, and cultural cognition theory. The tradition has proven attractive to many scholars and particularly to political scientists and scholars of public administration precisely because it offers a theory of institutions, not just a typology or ad hoc list of institutional types. 

These institutional forms constitute power, authority, and decision making relations in nominal, empirical institutions, subjects at the heart of public administration and political science. Moreover, this theory not only specifies types of institutional forms but explains how they arise and why they give rise to particular kinds of cultural biases. The theory derives its 2 four institutional forms from two dimensions of social and political relations and offers a dynamic theory of how these institutional forms sustain themselves by specifying conditions under which one form will change into or combine with others. 

This theory of organising and disorganising will be of interest to scholars of public administration, public management, and organisations generally. 

Tom Entwistle, Valeria Guarneros-Meza, Steve Martin and James Downe

Reframing governance: competition, fatalism and autonomy in central–local relations.

Much of the work on contemporary governance points either to a strong central government that continues to operate hierarchically or else to a relatively weak centre which relies on network forms of coordination. In place of the choice between hierarchy and networks, the cultural theory pioneered by Mary Douglas draws our attention to five distinctive ‘social environments’ characterised in terms of hierarchy, individualism, egalitarianism, fatalism and autonomy. 

Based on an analysis of survey data collected from 488 local government managers across England, Scotland and Wales, this article uses the Douglas framework to understand patterns of governance. While the data lend support to the strong centre theorists in revealing little evidence of a central– local partnership and continuing reliance on regulatory-type instruments, we find this more a recipe for competition and fatalism than hierarchy. Our data also point to significant differences in governance style both across services and between countries. 

Philip Shrives and Philip Linsley 

Applying neo-Durkheimian institutional theory in the accounting domain: accounting practice, accounting regulation and other possible uses of the theory 

In this short presentation we will discuss how neo-Durkheimian institutional theory can be employed to examine issues in the accounting field. 

We will refer to studies we have undertaken that draw on the theory to examine two different aspects of accounting; namely, the practice of accounting and accounting regulation. To demonstrate the potential of the theory we will also refer to more exploratory studies that include examining changes in ideas relating to management accounting and financialisation. 

We hope that this may encourage others in accounting and related fields to consider adopting the theory. 

Danielle Logue 

Social organisation, classificatory analogies and institutional logics: institutional theory revisits Mary Douglas 

As a social theory of organisation, it is unsurprising that institutional theory draws upon the profound and ambitious work of the late anthropologist Mary Douglas. 

One of the foundational concepts of organisational institutionalism, institutional logics, directly draws upon her work. Yet, in recent times, this foundational role has faded from view as institutional theory itself becomes increasingly institutionalised as a vibrant branch of organisation studies. This is unfortunate for there is much continuity in current work with that of Douglas, it now being 50 years and 30 years, respectively, since the publication of two of her formative works. 

The deep analogies that underpin classificatory systems and the processes by which they are sustained remain significant areas under continued investigation by institutional theorists. Thus, in this paper we revisit Douglas’ core arguments and their connections to institutional theorising. We specifically explore her contribution of ‘naturalising analogies’ as a way of accounting for the unfolding of change across levels of analysis, extending, modifying and enriching explanations of how institutional change is reified, naturalised and made meaningful. 

We do this by providing empirical descriptions of metaorganising analogies and field-level applications. We explain how Douglas’ major theoretical works are of considerable relevance for current institutional theorising. This aids particularly in informing accounts of institutional logics and the movement between individual cognition and collective signification.


Professor Perri 6.

More Information

Please email Professor Perri 6 to book your place.

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