Institutional Work and the Notion of Test
Institutional work concerns the way in which the activities of actors contribute to the evolution of institutions, whether through their creation, disruption or maintenance. In this paper, we argue that the notion of “test”, as developed by conventionalist theory, provides an innovative lens through which to examine the nature of institutional work and the evolution of institutions. Conventionalist theory posits that constitutive value frameworks guide individuals’ behaviors and provide the legitimating systems for their actions. It pays particular attention to moments of questioning of these value frameworks, and how they may affect existing legitimate practices and principles. Such moments of test provide a remarkable opportunity for understanding institutional work as they allow a close examination of three key dimensions associated with actors’ questioning or reproduction of constitutive value frameworks: agency, relationality and temporality. We suggest that an analytical focus on moments of test can foster more systematic attention to these dimensions, and productively contribute to ongoing research on how and why institutions may be disrupted, maintained, or created in a diversity of situations.
Copyright (c) 2012 Kafui Dansou, Ann Langley
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