Agency and institutions in organization studies

Samer Abdelnour*, Hans Hasselbladh, Jannis Kallinikos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Agency and institutions are essential concepts within institutional theory. In this Perspectives issue, we draw on a select group of Organization Studies articles to provide an overview of the topic of agency and institutions. We first consider different ways of defining agency and institutions and examine their implications for institutional theory. We then analyse the relationship of actors and institutions through four lenses – the wilful actor, collective intentionality, patchwork institutions and modular individuals. Our analysis leads us to dissociate agency from individuals and view it as a capacity or quality that stems from resources, rights and obligations tied to the roles and social positions actors occupy. Roles and social positions are institutionally engineered. It is social actors qua occupants of roles and positions (not individuals) that enter the social ‘stage’ and exercise agency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1775-1792
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number12
Early online date9 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • actors
  • agency
  • institutional theory
  • institutions
  • modular individuals


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