Prospects for Organizational Theory in the Early 21st Century: Institutional Fields and Mechanisms
Davis, Gerald F.; Marquis, Christopher
This paper argues that research in organization theory has seen a shift in orientation from paradigm-driven work to problem-driven work since the late 1980s. A number of paradigms for the study of organizations were elaborated during the mid-1970s, including transaction cost economics, resource dependence theory, organizational ecology, new institutional theory, and agency theory in ?nancial economics. These approaches re?ected the dominant trends of the large corporations of their time: increasing concentration, diversi?cation, and bureaucratization. However, subsequent shifts in organizational boundaries, the increased use of alliances and network forms, and the expanding role of ?nancial markets in shaping organizational decision making all make normal science driven by the internally derived questions from these paradigms less fruitful. Instead, we argue that problem-driven work that uses mechanism-based theorizing and research that takes the ?eld rather than the organization as the unit of analysis are the most appropriate styles of organizational research under conditions of major economic change—such as our own era. This sort of work is best exempli?ed by various studies under the rubric of institutional theory in the past 15 years, which are reviewed here.
Previously Published As
Organization Science 16, no. 4 (July-August 2005): 332-343