Neo-Institutional Theory and Organization Studies: A Mid-Life Crisis?

Mats Alvesson, André Spicer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Citations (SciVal)


We trace the development of neo-institutional theory in Organization Studies from a marginal topic to the dominant theory. We show how it has evolved from infancy, through adolescence and early adulthood to being a fully mature theory, which we think is now facing a mid-life crisis. Some of the features of this mid-life crisis include over-reach, myopia, tautology, pseudo-progress and re-inventing the wheel. To address these problems, we argue that institutional theorists should limit the range of the concept, sharpen their lens, avoid tautologies and problematize the concept. By doing this, we think institutional theorists could develop a narrower and more focused conception of institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-218
Number of pages20
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • development
  • identity
  • institutional theory
  • midlife crisis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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