PhD Workshop: Abstracts for Morning Public Lectures

Hosted by the University of Mannheim - August 25 - Friday, August 30, 2019

In the morning public lectures international faculty will present and discuss research within the field of institutional theory. The lectures in the morning are open to the public and guests are highly welcome. Interested guests are kindly asked to register at this link:

Seeing Like a Philanthropist: From the business of benevolence to the benevolence of business


Walter W. Powell and Aaron Horvath

Stanford University


Over the course of American history, philanthropists have been both praised and pilloried, depicted as redeemers of democracy and a threat to it. Despite the shifting social terrain in which they have operated, philanthropists — and the organizations they create — have grown in number and influence, acting as a catalytic force in the genesis and development of the modern nonprofit sector. Philanthropic largesse has also played a powerful role in shaping civic life and political affairs.  This chapter argues that it is important to understand not only how philanthropists are seen, but also how they see. In narrating the development of American philanthropy from the late 19th to the early 21st centuries, our aim is to capture changes in what it means to “see like a philanthropist”—that is, to illuminate the meanings and ends of philanthropic wealth. We focus on three core influences on philanthropic visions: (1) the sources of philanthropic wealth, (2) its organizational embodiments, and (3) the criticisms leveled at its outsized influence.  We examine the reciprocal dynamic between political challenges to elite power and philanthropic visions. We show that philanthropists have transposed the practices they used to earn their great fortunes into the organizational routines of their philanthropies and turned these into requirements for those who receive their funding. The actions of past philanthropists weigh heavily on future philanthropists. Consequently, the political might of philanthropy both channels and enables the critiques to which its influence is subjected. In narrating this long arc of history, we show how the super-rich’s perceptions of themselves and their role in public life have evolved as well as the myriad ways philanthropy has altered civic and political discourse.

Gender Inequality in Product Markets: When and How Status Beliefs Transfer to Products


Sarah A. Soule

Stanford University


This paper develops and evaluates a theory of status belief transfer, the process by which gender status beliefs differentially affect the evaluations of products made by men and women. We conduct three online experiments to evaluate this theory. In Study 1, we gathered 50 product categories from a large online retailer and had participants rate each product’s association with femininity and masculinity. We find evidence of the pervasiveness of gender-typing in product markets. In Studies 2 and 3, we simulate male-typed and female-typed product markets (craft beer and cupcakes, respectively). In the male-typed product market, a craft beer described as produced by a woman is evaluated more negatively than the same product described as produced by a man. Consistent with our predictions, we further find that if the beer is conferred external status via an award, the evaluation of the beer made by a woman improves by a greater magnitude than the same beer made by a man. In the female-typed product market of cupcakes, the producer’s gender does not affect ratings. Together, the two studies provide evidence of an asymmetric negative bias: products made by women are disadvantaged in male-typed markets, but products made by men are not disadvantaged in female-typed markets. These studies also provide compelling evidence of status belief transfer from producers to their products. We draw out the implications of these findings and suggest ways that gender biases in product markets can be reduced.

Museums, Money and Markets: Crisis and imitation in US art museums 2007-2011


Bruce G. Carruthers

Northwestern University


Although they are nonprofit organizations, U.S. art museums have recently adopted a number of “business-like” organizational features. When considering whether to embrace a new feature, museums frequently look to their fellow institutions, and over time such imitation begets isomorphism. The global financial crisis of 2008-9 provided a massive exogenous shock that undermined the resource base of many museums, spurring action as they tried to compensate for falling revenues and shrinking endowments. Using panel data from the population of US art museums, we model an overall “market practice” score, measuring the extent to which a museum has particular business positions, as well as the adoption of specific business or financial positions (e.g., “business manager” or “chief financial officer”) for museum personnel. It is clear that the crisis altered the imitative behavior of museums, shifting their focus from leading organizations (like the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art) to peer organizations, from geographically distant to proximate organizations, and altering the focus within organizational networks. We consider the implications of this change for theories of organizational attention under conditions of uncertainty.

Gems, Skin or Chrome: Aesthetic Shifts in the U.S. Hearing Aid Industry (1945-2015)


Stine Grodal

Boston University

and Anders Dahl Krabbe, University of Southern Denmark


Aesthetics play an important role in the success of technology products. Scholars have theorized about how the aesthetics of technology products evolve over the technology lifecycle. Yet, due to limited empirical evidence the literature remains inconclusive about which mechanisms trigger periods of aesthetic innovation. We extend this literature through an inductive examination of technological and aesthetic innovations in the hearing aid industry over the 70-year period 1945-2015. Previous works have suggested that the transition to a new technology lifecycle eventually will force producers to unleash a new wave of aesthetic innovation. However, we find that only some technology lifecycles show such pattern. We offer a theoretical model of aesthetic shifts capable of accounting for this variation. We find that producers pursue new aesthetic manifestations to align the evolutionary trajectory of their product category with recent cultural developments in society. Producers do this through categorical aspirations to other product categories. A technology lifecycle unleashes a wave of aesthetic innovation when new categorical aspirations reside latent within an industry. This occurs when producers realize that current aesthetics have failed to generate the desired market outcomes. However, the sole presence of a categorical aspiration does not lead to an aesthetic shift until technological changes offer producers opportunities to radically alter technological designs. When a technological discontinuity triggers an era of ferment, categorical aspirations are taken from their latency and enacted in aesthetic experimentation.

From Crû to Classé: how the veneration of the 1855 Bordeaux wine classification led to the reinvention of the Bordeaux wine tradition


Grégoire Croidieu and Walter W. Powell

Grenoble Ecole de Management and Stanford University


We examine the 1855 Bordeaux wine classification from its origins until today. A 6-page long document was hastily written in the Spring of 1855 by a handful of Bordeaux tradesmen, who rated the best local wines estates, or crûs, in five classes. The classification was intended to be a temporary list to facilitate a presentation of Bordeaux wines to the Universal Exhibition held that year in Paris. Unexpectedly, this classification survived the exhibition and has endured almost unchanged until now, becoming venerated globally in the world of wine. Behind this façade of institutional persistence, this case of historical continuity, allows us to rethink the assumption that the forces that create institutions also explain how they are sustained. We draw on a broad set of archival materials to create an original historical analysis, which reveals a remarkable transformation beneath the persistence of 1855 and its veneer of immutability. We find that the social dynamics that led one set of persons to choose the 1855 classification as the organizing template of the fast-growing Bordeaux wine region were supplanted as 1855 become venerated. Once exalted, the 1855 classification constituted the choices available to the trade people, became cognitively familiar to many, and led to a new class of people who were shaped by these categories. This new community carried the reinvention of the Bordeaux wine tradition forward as they participated in the wine trade. We examine the mechanisms that undergird this remarkable transformation and draw implications from these findings for the process of veneration.