POLISHING THE GILT EDGE: ELITE CATEGORY ENDURANCE AND SYMBOLIC BOUNDARIES IN U.S. LUXURY HOTELS, 1790-2015

Christi Lockwood, Mary Ann Glynn, Simona Giorgi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)
42 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

We conducted an inductive study of discourse associated with the U.S. luxury hotel category, from its beginnings in 1790 through 2015, to explain how cultural processes contribute to elite category endurance. Analyzing data from historical archives, interviews, and observations, we use both qualitative and quantitative methods to reveal how the endurance of an elite category is an ongoing cultural accomplishment that occurs via periodic redefinition of its “symbolic boundary”-that is, the set of meanings and practices that distinguish the elite from nonelite. Modeling the boundary in terms of semiotic codes of opposition, we find that the encoding of the symbolic boundary serves as a temporary settlement that conveys both the category's elite exclusivity and its cultural consonance with broader societal beliefs, tastes, and practices. Over time, however, with industry and societal changes, tensions erupt in the balance between the needs for exclusivity and consonance, propelling a redefinition of what it means to be elite. Our research extends current theorizations of elite category endurance by revealing how the elite symbolic boundary is neither permanent nor unassailable; rather, we show how it changes to enable long-term elite category endurance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-42
Number of pages34
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Volume66
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Andrew Nelson for his excellent editorial guidance and our three anonymous AMJ reviewers for their valuable, developmental comments. We also thank Paul Hirsch and members of the Boston College Management and Organization Department, and participants at the Fifth Alberta Institutions Conference, 35th European Group for Organization Studies Colloquium, University of Michigan Strategy Seminar, and University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Entrepreneurship Seminar for their generous and constructive feedback; Cathleen Hellard, Steven Lacey, and Peter Domanico for their exemplary research assistance; and our interview informants and STR, Inc. for generously sharing their time and insights with us. This research was supported by the McIn-tire School of Commerce.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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