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Foundations for a theory of institutional entrepreneurship: solving the paradox of embedded agency

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The notion of institutional entrepreneur (DiMaggio, 1988) incorporates the role of actors and interests into institutional theory. However, depending on the assumption that is made about actors' agency, the incorporation of the role of actors and interests in institutional theory may lead to the paradox of embedded agency. To overcome this paradox, and thereby set up foundations for a theory of institutional entrepreneurship within institutional theory, it is necessary to explain how institutional entrepreneurs can emerge, despite institutional pressures. In this paper, the author develops a contingent model of the emergence of institutional entrepreneurship that accounts for the dialectical relationship between human agency and institutions. This model helps to reconcile the notion of institutional entrepreneurship with the premises of institutional theory. She conceptualizes agency as a temporally embedded process of social engagement, informed by the past, but also oriented toward the future and toward the present. She explains how institutional entrepreneurs, whose agency is primarily oriented toward the present and the future, can emerge in institutional environments. She argues that, depending on contextual factors and on actors' past and present positions in the institutional environment, actors, who have the potential to behave as institutional entrepreneurs, may or may not behave as such.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://flora.insead.edu/fichiersti_wp/inseadwp2004/2004-61.pdf

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Copyright INSEAD. All rights reserved