Performative Work: Bridging Performativity and Institutional Theory in the Responsible Investment Field

Daniel Beunza, Fabrizio Ferraro

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

74 Downloads (Pure)


Callon’s performativity thesis has illuminated how economic theories and calculative devices shape markets, but has been challenged for its neglect of the organizational, institutional and political context. Our seven-year qualitative study of a large financial data company found that the company’s initial attempt to change the responsible investment field through a performative approach failed because of the constraints posed by field practices and organizational norms on the design of the calculative device. However, the company was subsequently able to put in place another form of performativity by attending to the normative and regulative associations of the device. We theorize this route to performativity by proposing the concept of performative work, which designates the necessary institutional work to enable translation and the subsequent adoption of the device. We conclude by considering the implications of performative work for the performativity and the institutional work literatures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)515-543
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Published online: 23. February 2018


  • Actor network theory
  • Performativity
  • Materiality
  • Institutional theory
  • Corporate social performance
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Economic sociology
  • Financial system

Cite this