Constructing Organizational Life: How Social-Symbolic Work Shapes Selves, Organizations, and Institutions

ISBN : 9780198840022

Thomas B. Lawrence; Nelson Phillips
400 ページ
153 x 234 mm

Across the social sciences, scholars are increasingly showing how people 'work' to construct organizational life, including the rules and routines that shape and enable organizational activity, the identities of people who occupy organizations, and the societal norms and assumptions that provide the context for organizational action. The idea of work emphasizes the ways in which people and groups engage in purposeful, reflexive efforts rooted in an awareness of organizational life as constructed in human interaction and changeable through human effort. Studies of these efforts have identified new forms of work including emotion work, identity work, boundary work, strategy work, institutional work, and a host of others. Missing in these conversations, however, is a recognition that these forms of work are all part of a broader phenomenon driven by historical shifts that began with modernity and dramatically accelerated through the twentieth century.

This book introduces the social-symbolic work perspective, which addresses this broader phenomenon. The social-symbolic work perspective integrates diverse streams of research to examine how people purposefully and reflexively work to construct organizational life, including the identities, technologies, boundaries, and strategies that constitute their organizations. In this book, the authors define social-symbolic work and introduce three forms - self work, organization work, and institutional work.

Social-symbolic work highlights people's efforts to construct the social world, and focuses attention on the motivations, practices, resources, and effects of those efforts. This book explores eight distinct streams of social-symbolic work research, drawing on a broad range of examples from the worlds of business, politics, sports, social movements, and many others. It provides researchers, students, and practitioners with an integrative theoretical framework useful in understanding social-symbolic work, a survey of the main forms of social-symbolic work, a rich set of theoretical opportunities to inspire new studies, and practical methodological guidance for empirical research on social-symbolic work.


Part I
1 Introduction to Constructing Organizational Life
2 The Social-Symbolic Work Perspective
Part II
3 Self Work
4 Self Work in Management and Organizational Research
5 Organization Work
6 Organization Work in Management and Organizational Research
7 Institutional Work
8 Institutional Work in Management and Organizational Research
Part III
9 Theoretical Opportunities in the Study of Social-Symbolic Work
10 Methodological Challenges and Choices in the Study of Social-Symbolic Work
11 Conclusion: Understanding the Implications of a Social-Symbolic Work Perspective for Scholars, Change-Makers, and Citizens


Thomas B. Lawrence is Professor of Strategy at Said Business School, University of Oxford. Previously he was the Van Dusen Professor in the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. His research focuses on the dynamics of agency, power, and institutions in organizations and organizational fields, and has appeared widely in academic and practitioner journals.; Nelson Phillips is the Abu Dhabi Chamber Chair in Strategy and Innovation at Imperial College Business School in London. Prior to joining Imperial, he was the Beckwith Professor of Management Studies at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. His research interests cut across organization theory, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and he has published widely for both academics and practitioners. He is the Past Chair of the OMT Division of the Academy of Management and is the Co-Editor of Innovation: Management and Organization.