Working Papers

Being, Doing, and Creating Community: Social Exchange and the Microfoundations of Institutional Logics.

A key catalyst in the reorientation of institutional theory towards microfoundations and cross-level change has been the institutional logics perspective. However disciplinary boundaries have resulted in a model heavily influenced by symbolic interaction and, simultaneously, the omission of social exchange perspectives, despite the benefits that the theoretical integration of sociological approaches to social exchange. These include furthering our understanding of the microfoundations of institutions, conceptualizing processes of institutional reproduction, and theorizing institutional effects. I demonstrate these benefits using a community supported agriculture (CSA) organization as a theory-building case. I show how the community institutional logic, accessible to members via the CSA’s organizational identity, reproduces itself by supporting cognitive and affective outcomes conducive to organizational identification and positive group affect. This happens both because the community logic makes cohesion-compatible forms of social exchange happen more often, and because the community logic serves as a sensemaking resource that allows members to reframe cohesion-incompatible forms of exchange in cohesion-compatible ways.


Social Cognitive Mechanisms of Category-Based Impression Formation in Markets: The Role of Valenced Categories (with Omar Lizardo)

We address the limitations of the standard category-based impression formation model of product/producer evaluation in markets by developing the notions of category valence, valenced expectancy violations, and identity relevance.  In addition to dealing with the usual case of negative evaluations for producers that violate expectations in a negative direction, our revised model can account for cases of routine negative evaluations in cases of fit to negatively valenced categories. In addition, we are able to deal with cases in which of anomalously high(low) evaluations of producer/product claim negatively(positively) valenced categories who violate expectations in a positive(negative) direction, thus properly incorporating evaluation intensity into the theory. We discuss the implications of our model for audience/producer interactions, the reproduction of boundaries in markets, and the mechanisms generating brand loyalty.


Categorical Contestation and the Hyper-Reflexivity in the Creation of Categorical Inequality: The Case of the World Heritage Committee (with Omar Lizardo)

“Instituting organizations routinely reaffirm the reality of social categories by  monopolizing the prerogative to endow certain persons or objects with a special status. Often, the categories governing this instituting action come to be linked to other categorical hierarchies putatively exogenous to the organization. In this case, instituting organizations become key players in the reproduction systems of categorical inequality. The standard model of this process is built on two substantive assumptions: (1) if categorical biases governing the allocation of statuses exist, then they are not explicitly recognized by the instituting organization; and (2) categories are allowed to reproduce bias because there is little explicit contestation as to the validity of the relevant categories. In this paper, we turn to the case of a transnational organization endowed with the mission of defining and “consecrating” the cultural heritage of humanity: UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. This case is of inherent theoretical interest because it represents an anomaly in relation to the standard model. We show that the WHC generated a predictable pattern of categorical inequality (a Eurocentric bias in the definition of the best of humanity’s cultural heritage) in spite of the fact that (a) the categories used for selection have been subject to almost constant explicit contestation and critique since the beginning, and  (b) insiders within the organization evinced a hyper-reflexive awareness of the fact that bias was built into the very construction of the categories in question. We conclude that, when selection processes become embedded in organizational routines, categorical inequality can be generated even when organizational actors are consciously aware of their iterative application of these categories. Thus, ‘unmasking’ the link between biased categories and the pattern of inequality becomes an ineffective strategy for the removal of bias.