New Themes in Institutional Analysis
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New Themes in Institutional Analysis

Topics and Issues from European Research

Edited by Georg Krücken, Carmelo Mazza, Renate E. Meyer and Peter Walgenbach

Institutional theory has become one of the dominant organizational approaches in recent decades. Its roots can be traced to Europe, and an important intellectual objective of this book is to examine North American theory strands and reconnect them with European research traditions. In addition, this book focuses on how organizations and individuals handle heterogeneous and challenging social conditions which are subsequently reflected in various forms of change.
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Chapter 15: Institutions as adverbs? The dynamic form of institutional substances

Elke Weik


The chapter by Elke Weik provides an innovative theoretical take on institutional substances as ‘living forms’. Weik draws on a variety of philosophical traditions on substances, essences, and forms, and understands institutional substances as dynamic and active, striving for self-preservation and reproduction, thereby stressing the agency of institutions themselves. This processual and agentic, but ephemeral nature of substances is captured in the grammatical metaphor of the ‘adverb’, since institutions are ways of seeing, thinking, and feeling about things rather than things themselves. To avoid reifying institutions, Weik understands them as ‘events’ and ‘experiences’ with an affective and embodied impact that goes beyond rationalized cognition. She wraps up the chapter with an appeal for methodological approaches to institutions that refrain from claiming mastery over its object, borrowing from Goethe’s idea of ‘delicate empirics’ and Shotter’s concept of ‘with-ness’ thinking to achieve genuine understanding instead of explanation.

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