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Journal articles (2011), Theory and Society, 40 (4), pp. 385-416

"Wall Street" Meets Wagner: Harnessing Institutional Heterogeneity

If institutional heterogeneity tends overall to reduce survival chances, it may also persist and be harnessed to good use. This article investigates this ambivalence by looking at how institutional heterogeneity emerges, develops, and survives. An inductive study of the “Metropolitan Opera” archives suggests that what enables heterogeneity to survive and to withstand the pressure for homogenization is its inherent potential for “multivocality.” The analysis shows how institutional discrepancies were bridged over through an opportunistic, “multivocal” action pattern, whereby the organization maneuvered between conflicting institutional demands, seeking to minimize dependence on any single constituency or evaluation principle. Maintaining discretionary options is essential in multi-dimensional space, where ambiguity makes optimization impractical. The trade-off in this action pattern includes remarkable adaptability and operational inefficiencies. Link to the article

SGOUREV, S. (2011). "Wall Street" Meets Wagner: Harnessing Institutional Heterogeneity. Theory and Society, 40(4), pp. 385-416.