Working Paper | 2013

Towards a General Theory of the Institutional Field

by Ryan Raffaelli, Mary Ann Glynn and J. Strandgaard Pedersen


The notion of the “field” is a cornerstone of institutional theory and, arguably, one of its key contributions. However, in the three decades since DiMaggio and Powell’s (1983) formulation, an array of labels and definitions have come to be associated with “field.” As important as this work has been, it has left in its wake a sea of conceptual confusion related to the dynamics and mechanisms that underlie institutional fields. Responding to recent calls to revisit the notion of the field (e.g, Davis &Marquis, 2005), in terms of its historical moorings and mechanisms, this paper revisits the early assumptions, logics, and theoretical trajectories of field research. We highlight four conceptual variants of fields (market exchange, collective cognition, issue-based, and geographic community) that have received attention in organization studies, focusing on: organizing principles; coordinating, change, and stability mechanisms; boundary setting conditions; and, logics. We conclude with recommendations for scholars interested in advancing theorization and empirical examination of fields.

Keywords: fields; organization theory; institutions; logics;


Raffaelli, Ryan, Mary Ann Glynn, and J. Strandgaard Pedersen. "Towards a General Theory of the Institutional Field." Working Paper, 2013.