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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: July 2019

8 - Queues: Tensions between Institution and Organization

from Part 2 - Organization in and around Markets


The formation of queues is an institution: it is created and managed largely by the emergent norms of those in the queue. Research on queues has demonstrated that it is more and more common for organizations to intervene in the ordering of queues. In this chapter we investigate why and how queues are organized and the tensions that arise when a strong institution becomes the subject of partial organization. As an institution, the idea of how to form a queue has strong legitimacy resting on commonly accepted values of equality and fairness. The fact that a queue is organized with one or several organizational elements does not necessarily mean that the queue as an institution is replaced by organization; on the contrary, organizational decisions may support the queue as an institution. In other cases, however, organization is a challenge to the legitimacy of the queue; instead it is the organization that uses its power to further its own interest in selecting the preferred customers from a larger number of people standing in a line. When an organization decides the order in which people are admitted, little remains of the institution of the queue.