(Mis)taking Social Responsibility? Implementing Welfare State Reform by Private and Non-profit Organizations

Nicolette Van Gestel*, Susanne Boch Waldorff, Jean Louis Denis

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article relates institutional theory to the concept of organizational legitimacy with cognitive, moral, and pragmatic dimensions, to analyse how a Dutch national policy reform – aimed at expanding the social responsibility for sick leave and disability toward non-state organizations – is understood and enacted locally. Based on interviews in 52 organizations, the study highlights that implementing welfare state reform is predominantly based on pragmatic reasoning, and justified by specific moral and cognitive interpretations. The findings reveal that implementing reform is active institutional work by – paradoxically – restricted local agency, with disciplinary effects on a narrow range of actors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1739-1759
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Welfare state reform
  • Institutional theory
  • Organizational legitimacy
  • Social responsibility
  • Sick leave policy

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