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Inhabiting institutions: Critical realist refinements to understanding institutional complexity and change

Delbridge, Rick ORCID: and Edwards, Timothy James ORCID: 2013. Inhabiting institutions: Critical realist refinements to understanding institutional complexity and change. Organization Studies 34 (7) , pp. 927-947. 10.1177/0170840613483805

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This paper builds on recent contributions to understanding conditions of institutional complexity by developing a theoretical framework to elaborate the interdependencies between actions, contexts and institutional logics. Our aim is to refine existing explanations of how actors inhabit complex institutional settings. Drawing on a critical realist ontology, we treat agency and structure as analytically distinct phenomena to advance our understanding of conditioned action. This is subject to relational analysis in order to explain the structural conditioning that shapes particular socio-historical contexts, the potential ‘action options’ contained within these contexts and the processes through which actors draw upon these. This reading of institutional reproduction and transformation allows us to reassess the ‘paradox of embedded agency’ by advancing understanding of the historically grounded and multilevel nature of structures and agency in institutional processes. Our approach offers conceptual refinements, a new sensitizing framework and methodological insights to guide studies of the ways actors inhabit complex institutional settings.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: conditioned action; critical realism; embedded agency; new institutionalism; inhabited institutions; institutional logics
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 0170-8406
Funders: British Academy
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 18:39

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