Introducing “The Creativity of Action” Into Institutionalist Theory

  • Elke Weik University of Leicester
Keywords: action theory, corporeality, creativity, emotion, institutional ecstasy, Joas, motivation, paradox of embedded agency


Much has been written in institutionalist theory about the need to address and conceptualise action within its theoretical framework. For conceptual as well as political reasons, understanding how agency is related to institutions is indispensable to the study of institutions. In this paper, I will take the creative action theory developed by the German sociologist Hans Joas (1996) in his book “The Creativity of Action” and apply it to some unresolved problems in institutionalist literature. I have chosen Joas because he represents, in my view, one of the most sophisticated action theories currently available in sociology. Joas argues against rational actor models and bases his action theory on four concepts: creativity, situation, corporeality and sociality. If applied to institutionalist theory I believe his theory, centred on the notion of creativity, could help fight the pervasive rational-cognitive bias in institutional analysis, add more depth to concepts already discussed (such as skilled agents), resolve hitherto unresolved issues (such as the paradox of embedded agency), and open up some new avenues of thought (such as the inclusion of the corporeality of actors or institutional ecstasy).


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How to Cite
Weik E. (2019). Introducing “The Creativity of Action” Into Institutionalist Theory. M@n@gement, 15(5), 563-581. Retrieved from
Original Research Articles