The dynamics and statics of entrenchment: How new institutions emerge from the process of translation
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This dissertation is a three-paper format created from the interest to better understand entrenchment, constraints on the freedom of action and value creation due to ingrained social division and hierarchy, and how individuals can reshape and replace the institutions that constrain them. This interest necessitates a primary research question: What is the process of emergence that results in new institutions? Embedded within this primary research question are three subsidiary questions necessary to develop a better understanding of the process of emergence: (1) Who is involved in the process, (2) How does this process occur, and (3) What are the results of this process? Each paper addresses one of the three subsidiary questions in sequential order. In the first paper, Refocusing Agency as a Construct in Institutional Entrepreneurship Research, we develop an integrated framework of creating institutional work in actor-network theory’s moments of translation to enhance the understanding of who is involved in the process. In doing so, we highlight an often-missed actant, technology, to refocus the construct of agency in institutional entrepreneurship. We suggest a collective agency perspective at the network-level addresses issues in the study of institutional entrepreneurship such as the conflation of action and practice, individual bias, and the paradox of embedded agency. Thereby, our framework provides a step forward in establishing new microfoundations in institutional theory. In the second paper, Integrating Actor-Network Theory and Institutional Work: A Process Model of Institutional Entrepreneurship Through Translation, we develop a process model of institutional entrepreneurship by integrating institutional work into actor-network theory’s moments of translation using a qualitative study of sustainable, responsible impact investing (SRI). We observe and explain how institutional entrepreneurs use their agency to construct a network in the process by translating privately held ideals into commonly held beliefs. In doing so, we highlight the role of technology in the process to translate and identify what is being translated using institutional work. In the third paper, Maintaining Institutional Work: Stabilizing an Emerging Institution Through Entropy Reduction, we examine the results of this process in terms of stabilization and evolution of an emerging institution. Using a qualitative study of Calvert Research and Management, an institutional entrepreneur in the emerging SRI institution, we examine the activities to stabilize the institution by reducing entropy, a measure of disorder or uncertainty of a system as it moves towards equilibrium. We explain how Calvert uses maintaining institutional work to add meaning to imported information and develop a non-exhaustive set of maintenance modalities. In doing so, we highlight the role of heterogenous organization in stabilizing and evolving the institution of SRI. Together, the answers to these three questions allow for a more dynamic model of how institutional work is transformative in the process of emergence of new institutions. In doing so, these three papers address the primary concern of this dissertation, how can agents reshape and replace the institutions that currently constrain them; that is, how to actors contribute to emergence of new institutions in the face of entrenchment.