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  • Cited by 30
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: September 2009

7 - Scandinavian institutionalism – a case of institutional work

Summary

Institutional theory has witnessed a fairly successful stream of research and has witnessed a renaissance within the social sciences over the last couple of decades. This has created a diffusion of institutional theory into a number of disciplines within the social sciences and resulted in the creation of a distinction between different types of institutionalisms like economical, sociological, and historical institutionalism (Scott, 1995, 2008). A widely used distinction within institutional theory has also been a division between “old institutionalism” and “new institutionalism” (see, for example, DiMaggio & Powell, 1991; Czarniawska & Sevón, 1996; Hirsch & Lounsbury, 1997). Lately it has also become customary to talk about a particular Scandinavian approach to organization studies (e.g. Engwall, 2003; Kreiner, 2007; Olsen, 2007) and about a “Scandinavian institutionalism” as a distinctive and identifiable variant of institutionalism (e.g. Czarniawska & Sevón, 1996, 2003; Lægreid, 2007; Røvik, 2007; Greenwood, Sahlin, Oliver & Suddaby, 2008; Sahlin & Wedlin, 2008). This chapter aims at identifying and presenting the origin of what could be termed Scandinavian institutionalism and at characterizing its main features and its emerging boundaries.

In a way it seems like a paradox to claim the existence of a Scandinavian brand of institutional theory. Institutional theory emphasizes processes of isomorphism, homology, and standardization in an ever more globalized world, hence it may seem paradoxical to claim that Scandinavia has been shielded from the isomorphic pressures of prevailing institutional theory. Yet, as we will argue, Scandinavian institutionalism highlights organizational variation and distinctiveness rather than isomorphism and standardization.

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