Institutional Entrepreneurship and the Field of Power: The Emergence of the Global Hotel Industry

Mairi Maclean, Charles Harvey, Roy Suddaby

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Institutional entrepreneurship as a field of academic enquiry is focused on the roles played by individual agents and agents acting in concert in promoting institutional change. From Bourdieu (1993; 1996), we infer that contests for institutional change are played out in the field of power, the integrative social domain that brings together powerful actors from different walks of life – business, politics, government agencies, media and the law – to affect changes in laws, regulations and conventions (Maclean and Harvey, 2019; Maclean, Harvey and Press, 2006). Institutional entrepreneurs pursue institutional change directly by legal or quasi-legal means by persuading others to act according to their interests through social influence or lobbying; often forming issue-based coalitions in pursuit of specific institutional goals (Wijen and Ansari, 2006). Hence we define institutional entrepreneurship as the skilful actions taken by an individual actor or coalition of actors to affect changes in the informal or formal rules governing a field for personal or collective advantage.
There is little agreement on the processes commonly at work in institutional entrepreneurship and the ways in which these play out in different contexts. However, without some measure of agreement on the specific mechanisms whereby institutional entrepreneurs effect change in different arenas, it is difficult to generalize about strategy and tactics, let alone the outcomes of attempts to disrupt the status quo. The actual work of institutional entrepreneurship in its fine-grained detail is often glossed over. What is missing is research on collective endeavours, on emergent processes involving a range of actors in building momentum for institutional change (Aldrich, 2011; Maguire, Hardy and Lawrence, 2004; Lawrence and Phillips, 2004). It is in this aspect that Bourdieu’s construct of the field of power adds value to the theory of institutional entrepreneurship. Here the emphasis is on interactions between elite actors with different types and amounts of capital who combine their efforts to press for institutional change (Harvey and Maclean, 2008). In what follows, we build on Bourdieu’s ideas to identify three processes of institutional entrepreneurship – field formation, coalition building and rhetorical agency – at work in early phase globalization, when home-country firms seek to extend their operational reach into multiple host countries.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistorical Organization Studies
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Applications
EditorsMairi Maclean, Stewart Clegg, Roy Suddaby, Charles Harvey
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-003-03359-2
ISBN (Print)978-0-367-47121-7, 978-0-367-47122-4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2020


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