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"Category structure and organizational theory"

Peter Cebon and E. Geoffrey Love


First Author :

Peter Cebon
Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne
200 Leicester Street
Carlton VIC 3053

61-3-9349-8414 (Fax)

Second Author :

E. Geoffrey Love
College of Business
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1206 S. Sixth Street, M/C 706
Champaign, IL 61820


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Abstract :
This paper asks how the structuring of categories and their social location can impact organisational theory in general and institutional theory in particular. Following Bourdieu, we divide categories into two classes, namely those within the field, and those within the habitus (i.e. within the minds of individuals). For categories in the field, the category structure is rarely important, and it is often useful to assume all category members are equivalent. For categories in the habitus however, closely considering the structure of the category, and particularly its grading, provides conceptual and methodological tools for understanding several aspects of institutional behavior, and for linking institutional theory to micro-level organizational theories. We demonstrate our arguments by reviewing three previously-published studies and by analyzing the adoption of Manufacturing Best Practice programs in Australia and New Zealand.
Footnotes & Acknowledgements :
The authors would like to thank Danny Samson for giving us access to the dataset used in this study. They would also like to thank Danny Samson, Roger Schmenner, Roger Schroeder, Aleda Roth, Chris Voss, Bob Cole, Paul Osterman, Susan Helper, Jack Wacker, and Jim Womack for their help with the survey of experts, and 10 Melbourne Business School alumni for their help with our verification survey. The transformation of the manuscript from an earlier version was facilitated by the comments of seminar participants at MIT and the University of Illinois, and delegates to the 2004 EGOS meetings in Ljubljana and the 2004 Academy of Management meetings in New Orleans. The comments of Anand Swaminathan, Marc Ventresca and Eleanor Westney were particularly helpful. Brian Gibbs, Patrick Butler and Andy King all made suggestions which improved the current version. Mark Zbaracki, Tammar Zilber, and Ezra Zuckerman generously took the time to ensure we had interpreted their work accurately. We thank them all.
Manuscript Received : 2005
Manuscript Published : January, 2005
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