Autumn Quarter 2011

October 3

Pierre Desmet, ESSEC Business School

Retailer and National Brand Price Differential and the Effect of Retailer Money-Back Guarantees

Time and Location: 3:00-4:30 PM, CERAS 123

Retailers often use a money-back guarantee to reduce the perceived risk concerning the quality of their brands and to increase their market share relative to national brands. Central to the effect of these guarantees is their credibility which is influenced by the content of the guarantee itself, and by other extrinsic clues used to evaluate quality, such as price. Analysis of an experimental design on a national sample of consumers first shows that increasing the compensation, with a double money-back guarantee, has no additional effect over a simple money-back guarantee. Furthermore the size of the effect of a money-back guarantee is small and is moderated by the effects of other information on product quality such as the size of the price gap between retailer and national brands. Finally, the effect of a money-back guarantee differs, depending on the relationship between customers and the retailer: for a retailer with a high credibility, regular customers are less influenced by guarantees than occasional customers.

October 10

Steven Brint, University of California Riverside

Who Governs? Dual and Managerial Control in U.S. Four-Year Colleges and Universities

Time and Location: 3:00-4:30 PM, CERAS 123

Based on a previously unanalyzed survey of nearly 300 provosts and academic vice presidents in 2000-01, this study finds that dual control (or "shared governance") models of academic decision-making should be revised to reflect higher levels of managerial control than the dual control model suggests.  At the same time, empirical configurations of decision-making, based on weighted multi-dimensional scaling, did not conform neatly either to dual or managerial control models.  Instead, the configurational analysis revealed three clusters, which we label “weak boards, limited faculty participation,” “high faculty participation, strong deans” and “strong boards, multiple actors.” Findings on sector differences indicate that faculty participation was significantly greater in liberal arts institutions and lower in unionized institutions.  In addition, Eastern institutions were more likely to fall in the "strong boards, multiple actors" configuration.

October 17

Simone Polillo, University of Pennsylvania

A Sociology of Financial Conflict

Time and Location: 3pm – 4:30pm SCANCOR Seminar Room (CERAS 123)

What is the nature of money, credit, and banking in capitalist economies? Recent efforts in political economy, neo-institutional economics, and sociology approach this question by arguing that information is scarce, valued, and subject to manipulation; and that actors face particularly difficult challenges when, in order to price services and goods, they have to rely on information that is neither available nor potentially verifiable; on information that, only in some distant future, may or may not turn out to be accurate – in a word, on promises. Three myths, I argue here, spring from the information-centered premises of these approaches: in the “myth of fungible money,” money is understood as a neutral means of accounting for value – and thus as an instrument that serves to establish commensurability among qualitatively different commodities. In the “myth of banks as institutions of intermediation,” banks are defined as organizations charged with the allocation and distribution of scarce financial resources (capital): banks intermediate between savers and spenders. In the “myth of creditworthiness as objective assessment,” the criteria by which borrowers are granted credit are understood to be a function of the traits of the borrower: the better these criteria capture such underlying traits, the better the odds that the financial obligation will be met in the future. This paper replaces these myths with a sociological set of concepts intended to capture the dynamics of financial conflict. It uses a comparison of the banking systems of 19 th century United States and Italy to illustrate its usefulness. 

October 24

Lars Strannegard, SCANCOR

Looking Good – On aestheticized employees and configured customers in design hotels

Time and Location: 3pm – 4:30pm SCANCOR Seminar Room (CERAS 123)

October 31

Co-Hosted with WTO: Michael Macy, Cornell University

The Self-Organization of Ghastly Behavior

Time and Location: 12:00-1:30 PM, Y2E2

Witch burning, lynching, inquisitions, foot-binding, gay bashing, infibulation, breast ironing, ethnic cleansing, honor killing, and necklacing have been attributed to a dark side of the human psyche that surfaces on a mass scale only under special circumstances that are atypical in prosperous democratic societies. An alternative view is that these behaviors are extreme examples of a widely observed dynamic of self-organization in social networks, driven by positive feedback between homophily and social conformity. I will summarize results from computational models and experiments with human subjects that support the latter explanation. Application to the "culture wars" and red-blue polarization of contemporary American politics will also be explored, along with methodological implications for causal inference based on multivariate linear models.

November 7

Helen Anderson, SCANCOR

The Critical Role of Stakeholders in Mergers and Acquisitions

Time and Location: 3:00-4:30 PM, CERAS 123

November 14

Co-Hosted with WTO: Kim Elsbach, University of California Davis

Understanding Identification with Low-Prestige Organizations: A Study of NASCAR Fans

Time and Location: 12:00-1:30 PM, Cubberley 114

Through a series of three studies, we explored when and why external audiences (i.e., fans) identified with and supported the relatively low-prestige organization called NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing). In a first study, involving archival data and interviews with NASCAR experts and fans, we determined that fan identification with NASCAR was due, primarily, to value congruence with NASCAR, rather than the perceived external prestige of NASCAR.  We also found that identification with NASCAR led fans to support the organization, as well as perceive that they could engage in self-expression (i.e., “be themselves”).   A second study, involving three, large scale surveys of a group of avid NASCAR fans over time, confirmed that NASCAR was perceived as relatively low in prestige, and that value congruence was a stronger predictor than perceived external prestige of fan’s identification, supportive behaviors, and self-expression.  Further this data showed that fan identification significantly mediated the effects of value congruence on supportive behaviors and self-expression.   In a final study of NASCAR fans solicited at 5 live NASCAR races, interview and survey data revealed that value of “patriotism” was: (1) the primary NASCAR value with which fans identified, and (2) perceived as important but difficult to affirm through affiliation with other groups or organizations.  Together, these findings suggest that value congruence may predict organizational identification and support to a greater degree than perceived external prestige when organizations are relatively low in prestige, and when identification allows individual affirmation of important values that are difficult to affirm elsewhere.  We discuss these findings in terms of implications for theories of organizational identification.

November 28

Co-Hosted with Department of Sociology: Frank Dobbin, Harvard University

Social Science and the Institutional Logics of Diversity Management

Time and Location: 12:00-1:30 PM, Building 120, Rm 101B

Firms have devised several broadly different approaches to promoting workforce diversity, following different institutional logics, of network development, affirmative action, meritocratic bureaucracy, cognitive bias.  The literature on institutional logics rarely considers the relative efficacy of different logics.  We examine time-series data on workforce composition to explore which of these institutional approaches actually leads to change in the diversity of the workforce.

December 5

Co-hosted with WTO: Brayden King, Northwestern University

Breaking the Machine: Social Movement Disruption and Authority Erosion in Organizations

Time and Location: 12 - 1:30 PM in Y2E2 300, Engineering Quad. Lunch will be provided by WTO.

Because organizations are designed as stable and self-reproducing, the explanation of transformative organizational change must account for the erosion of the structural elements that facilitate stability and reproduction and thereby enable challengers to effectively offer alternative conceptions of governance. Our analysis focuses on challenges to an organization’s authority.  We propose that authority is reproduced through practices that highlight hierarchical consistency, functionality, and appropriateness of the existing hierarchical and rule system. Inasmuch as social movements, or other challengers, are able to disrupt those practices, the cognitive authority of the organization - the shared belief among an organization’s constituents in the rightness of an organization’s governance system – may be undermined. When this happens, authority erodes in the organization, creating an opportunity for challengers to reconstitute authority with alternative systems of governance. We examine the process through which authority erosion occurs through an analysis of the Free Speech Movement that occurred on the University of California, Berkeley campus in the fall of 1964. Using primary and secondary sources, we use this case study to illustrate that continual disruption to practices sustaining the reproduction of authority eroded campus authority, making it possible for faculty coalitions to emerge and assert control over university governance and making the university more malleable to radical change.

December 12

Paolo Parigi, Stanford University

The Rationalization of Miracles. How the Catholic Church Created Modern Sainthood

Time and Location: 3:00-4:30 PM, CERAS 123

Neo-institutional theorists have largely viewed social movements as agents of change and organizations as defenders of the status quo. Consequently, interaction between the two actors has been viewed almost exclusively as contentious and rules as instruments of naked power. This paper challenges this perspective by documenting a case in which a social movement and an organization acted together to seek change and rules created a mechanism for integration between the two actors. The analysis is an extreme-case study useful for a theory building approach. Data comes from the archives of a special commission within the Catholic Church that developed rules for adjudicating miracles performed by candidates to sainthood. The social movement is composed of candidates and their supporters who mobilized local communities using miracles. The period of the analysis was the aftermath of the Protestant Schism, when long established practices and beliefs were fundamentally challenged. By approving miracles that created ties between individuals that spanned across kinship and social status boundaries, the commission was able to channel legitimacy into the wounded core of the Church. At the same time, receiving Rome’s approval reduced the competition the candidate’s supporters faced from other religious activists. The non-contentious interaction that occurred between the two actors gave birth to the field of modern sainthood. The main implication for organization theory is that, even in the absence of conflict, a new environment and ideology can emerge endogenously and transform both the organization and the social movement.