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Organizational Analysis: Week 10 Questions (Social Movements)

McCarthy and Zald/Resource Mobilization

• Does the definition of a social movement imply something about the distribution of
agency within the movement? Do a movement’s activists have agency? If a movement’s
defining “opinions and beliefs” (M&Z 1977, p.1217) are established from its inception, is
there room for individual agency at all? (Matt)

• Reading the propositions of the partial theory of resource mobilization and social
movement by McCarthy and Zald (1977), I was struck by how much goals/interest/utility
play a part in theorizing social change. Firstly, social movement is defined as a set of
opinions and beliefs about changing some element of social structure. A social movement
organization is a formal organization that has a clear goal of opposing or aligning with
the social movement, and enough social movement organizations make up a social
movement industry. I know from previous weeks we talked about the causes for
organizational change and that social movement allows for more agency in theorizing
about organizational change. This theory, though, I feel, emphasizes too much on goal-
oriented action when thinking about change. The problem I have with it is that in a
complex, formal organization, interest manifests itself differently at different levels. I am
unconvinced that in social movement organizations/industries, change can be led by
focused attention on a set of uniform goals. How effective do we think the resource
mobilization theory is in explaining organizational change? (Sabrina)

• McCarthy and Zald (1977) mention that European sociology had maintained an emphasis
on structural approaches to social movements whereas the US had migrated to a social
psychological framework (hence their work redresses this issue). However, they do not
draw on any European scholars for their reinvigoration of a structural framework. Why
is that? (are the European theories inadequate? Not applicable to US social movements?
Tension across the Atlantic when they wrote this?) (Vince)

• How is it possible that the definitions of central term--social movement--"have included

both elements of preference and organized action for change " since a social movement is
merely defined as "a set of opinions and beliefs" without the dimension of collective
action? (Phoenix)


• Do not the same factors that lead to competence also lead to certification? Why, then,
should we refer to reputation as an important intangible resource, when reputation might
be at least mostly the outcome of technical efficiency? Does Rao really show an
exogeneous effect of certification? (Mazen)

• Rao’s (1994) study shows how legitimation via the certification mechanism could offer
an alternative explanation for the acquisition of capabilities (versus luck or foresight).
But how do auto manufacturers win certification contests? Seems like it is either due to

Organizational Analysis: Week 10 Questions (Social Movements)

luck or foresight (or already acquired capabilities, which begs the question again)?

• Rao (1994:30) states that "reputation and legitimacy need not be viewed as competing
specifications of organizational identity but are rather complementary aspects of
creating" such an identity. Is Rao referring to an organization's identity (i.e. that which is
central, distinctive, and permanent about an organization (Albert and Whetten, 1985)) or
to the organization's construed external image (Dutton and Dukerich, 1991)? If we focus
on identity per se, how can we reconcile the dynamic effects of gaining reputation in the
marketplace with the more enduring effects of founding values/imprinting? Is it possible
for these two forces run in opposite directions? (Luciana)

• Rao describes a virtuous cycle by which an organization with a positive reputation can
gain greater access to resources and to customers. This can then lead to more success and
additional wins in certification contests – further reinforcing the positive reputation.
Naturally, any newcomer to an industry would like to experience this kind of positive
cycle (and Rao predicts that “victories in contests are more likely to be consequential for
[startups]”). However, there are significant barriers to even enter contests that I don’t
think are very well discussed here. So, perhaps we can discuss what the barriers are, why
they exist (perhaps they are the earliest form of legitimation – if so, who are the
gatekeepers?), and how can firms ultimately overcome them? (Aaron)

• How would the concept of reputation be different from the concept of status? (Gru)

• Carrol and Swaminathan in their study of resource partitioning in the brewing industry
suggest (but don't fully explain) that the success of the craft brewers derives partly from
their embededness inside the craft brewing social movement. Rao this week also
complicates the density/legitimation link by suggesting that processes that legitimate
organizational forms are different than the legitimation processes (such as certification
contests) that result in particular firm's reputations. If we revisit the Carrol and
Swaminathan, is there evidence that craft brewers might experience different legitimation
processes than industrial brewers? What does that mean for identity processes in
markets? (Elizabeth)

Rao, Monin and Durand

• rao, monin, and durand: continuing the theme from last week, these authors explore how
change in institutionalised fields is possible. their answer appears to be that change is
possible when agents in the field perceive new role possibilities, new role exemplars, and
benefits from change in the field. to a large extent, therefore, the paper seems to be
arguing that change becomes possible when change happens, and does not explore what
is perhaps most interesting about change: where and how it begins, rather than how it
continues in a field. what am i missing? [vt]

Organizational Analysis: Week 10 Questions (Social Movements)

• why is it that organizational theory seems unwilling to add any other explanations of
change other than that of its emergence from structural factors? i'm specifically interested
in why we seem to systematically ignore the possibility of change emerging from specific
entities or from stochastic processes? note that even in the resource mobilization
perspective on social movements, the emphasis always seems much more on structural
causes of success or failure and only very infrequently on the role of particular entities
(whether institutions or individuals) as the conduits for change and unpredictability in a
system. this latter explanation for the origins of change in otherwise institutionalised
fields seems much more plausible and in line with weberian models of charismatic
rupture, for instance (the cycle of disenchantment and bureaucratic ossification followed
by charismatic rupture and re-enchantment seems a schematic description of social
movements in institutionalised fields). [vt]

• In the past few weeks, we have read several papers in which organizational theory is
"proven" by the analysis of empirical data. What do we make of the use of empirical data
for Rao et al's analysis of the social movement of nouvelle cuisine? How valid are their
translations of "sociopolitical legitimacy" and "theorization" from concept to data
(sociopolitical legitimacy = proportion of nouvelle cuisine chefs holding positions of
political power, and theorization = number of articles written by gastronomic
journalists)? How valid are their start and end points of analysis? How does it compare
with the use of data in the microbrewery or radio papers? (Sae)

Weber, Rao and Thomas

• It seems to me that their process model has advanced beyond the perception of a
corporation as a unitary reactor to social movement but I think that it still suffers from
perceiving the firm as a reactor. Corporations should be analyzed as a part of social
movements; they and shape and influence social movements and this conceptual
separation impedes the investigation of this relationship. For instance, firms are an
important player in the open source social movement, they shape and influence the
impact of the movement. I wonder if we can develop a more comprehensive and
interactive model of the process, including a feedback loop between the social movement
and the firms.(Hila)

• Weber, Rao and Thomas (2009) present an example of a set of firms whose strategic
decisions were altered by external social movements. Their view of organizations vis-a-
vis social movements is rather reactive and suggests that firms may not be able to
implement "ideal" strategies due to restrictions associated with the existence of these
social movements. A stream of literature on non-market strategies (starting with Baron,
1992) takes a more proactive stance, providing tools for organizations to engage with and
gain leverage from their relationships with non-market actors such as activist groups,
governments, the media, etc. How can organizations navigate the non-market space as
they deal with social movements that directly impact their chosen strategic paths?

Organizational Analysis: Week 10 Questions (Social Movements)

• Does the relationship between movements and organizations always work as movements
trying to get inside organizations? Or, can it work (or by accident) the other way around
with organizations getting inside movements? (Jessica)

• It is certainly interesting to consider (and I find it quite believable) that social movements
impact organizational structure and outcomes. But I think that these organizational
changes further perpetuate these social movements and shifts in social norms and beliefs.
For instance, in the campaign to be more “green” and environmentally friendly,
organizations/companies increasingly started using recycling bins to encourage
employees to modify their behavior towards more environmentally beneficial behavior.
However, such behavior change (on a macro level) at work can trickle down to changes
at the household level, leading to the (unintentional?) participation of additional people in
the social movement who would not otherwise have concerned themselves with such
issues. In such ways, organizations can be vehicles for social movements helping to
educate those within its environs. (Mary Carol)

• They focus on the internal politics of these organizations and the external pressures from
activists. However, what is the role (or lack of) potential supporters outside the these
organizations? What are some other types of groups, individuals, or organizations they
would potentially side with the bio-tech companies? What was the role of international
support or opposition? Similarly, was there any attempt at unity between these
organizations? Could there have tension between those who succeeded and those who
didn't? (Jessica)

• Like in previous articles, we see another attempt at some type of organization definition.
"Organizations are treated not as unitary actors, but as coalitions among eternal elites."
How does this compare with other definitions that we've seen? Does this only refer to
coalitions within an organization or can it be assessed at the organizational field level?
The add to their definition the discussion of logics: " Logics describe broad
understanding of what corporations are". Do all organizations have a clear set of logics?
If they always "reinforce extant organization identities and strategies", then does change
stem from changing the organization's logics, and if so, then how? (Jessica)

• Weber, Klaus, and Rao do a good job applying social movement theory (SMT) to
analyzing how the concerns of a variety of social actors with heterogeneous interests can
effectively impact the internal decision making considerations of firms. The view of
organizations as a coalition of interests among power elites, and not as unitary actors,
sheds light on how social actors can play on the internal conflict dynamics of
organizations. While McCarthy and Zald emphasize that SMT takes into account
individual interests and cost-benefit calculations, I feel that Weber et al. do not really
show in which cases individual actors will act on certain interests and not others. For
example, it is not exactly clear why the incalculable risks of the bio tech industry
threatened the professional identities of medical scientists and made them ambivalent
about their work. Weber et al. present a narrative in which this would be the case, but do
not really apply a systematic explanation as to why medical scientists would act on

Organizational Analysis: Week 10 Questions (Social Movements)

certain interests (i.e. professional identities) and not others. To provide a systematic
reason, and not merely a narrative, Weber et al. would have to tell us what causes other
scientists, in other industries, to not be as swayed by social sentiment. For example, in the
U.S., a significant portion of Americans oppose teaching evolutionary theory in schools
without presenting a creationist perspective. Yet most evolutionary biologists have
seemed to stand strongly on the side of science in these matters. Why didn't bio-tech
scientists do the same? It's not exactly clear to me how SMT can explain the differences.
Can SMT effectively define what people's interests will be and on which of those
interests they will act (as, for example, transaction cost economics does quite clearly). Or,
does SMT theory only become valuable when interests have already been defined and set
in place? In other words, SMT seems more apt to explaining processes than it is at
explaining the social construction of value, and thus it seems like it will always be a
partial theory. (Mazen)

• The study of the impact of the German anti-biotech movement on pharmaceutical firms
focused mainly on how movement exposure affected firm processes, amd the
authors illustrate the ways in which the movement was successful in penetrating these
organizations. However, presumably the movement's primary goal was to affect
outcomes (by bringing about legislation banning/restricting biotechnology), which it was
not able to achieve. What is the best way to evaluate the efficacy of social movements --
that is, should the focus be on structure (seemingly most aligned with the resource
mobilization theory), process (ability to change how business is done/how people
think even if the outcomes remain the same), or outcomes (presumably the goals of the
movement)? (Rebecca)

• Given the issues identified by Weber, Rao, and Thomas, what might this predict for the
future of stem cell research in the United States? For example, they point out that
researchers who found biotechnology completely legitimate and morally sound were still
hesitant to do a lot of work in the area due to the societal objections. Stem cell research
is still in its infancy, and it was only recently expanded by the Obama administration, but
we haven't seen that much out of it yet. Do you think sociological forces will prevent as
many developments as there could be? What would these authors’ findings predict about
this field? (Aaron)

General Questions

• Rao and his co-authors have produced an impressive run of articles on social movement
topics. Each takes the form of historical narrative, supplementing rich process theory and
interviews with statistical analysis of artifacts of events (certification contests), snapshots
of practice (signature dishes), or relative performance (patent citations). From an
empirical perspective, these studies seem to correspond to their own burden of proof –
the primary role of data seems to be support the theoretical story “beyond a reasonable
doubt,” rather than the statistical standard of some streams of economic sociology. Can
we think of any other identification strategies that will allow us to “pin down” social
movement data? From a “sampling” perspective, can we avoid selecting on the dependent

Organizational Analysis: Week 10 Questions (Social Movements)

variable (e.g. successful social movement), or is there some way to identify a “risk set”
for social movement behavior? (Matt)

• In the cases of French chefs, early automobile firms, and German pharmaceutical firms,
status dynamics are identified as a main mechanism of social movements that result in
institutional change. How does status operate differently at the individual, intra-
organizational, and inter-organizational level in each of these cases? What is the
relationship between status and identity that these reading sketch out? (Elizabeth)

• Many of the seemingly important contributions of the McCarthy/Zald (1977) and Rao
(1994) can easily be predicted by the classical economics that has existed for multiple
centuries. What specifically makes these contributions different from the basic tenets of
economics that I learned my first year of college in Econ 101? (examples: if the public
has more money then social movement industries will get more money from the public;
organizations which have won legitimacy contests will be less likely to exit their
markets). (Anshul)

• That social movements influence organizations seems somewhat reminiscent of

organizational ecology in that their focus is on that which is external to the organization
and it is these factors which contribute to the existence and shape of the organization or
industry. Is this is a subset of org ecology work? (Mary Carol)