Using Verbal Imagery to Develop the ‘Micro-Foundations’ of Institutional Theory

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This paper investigates the development of ‘micro-foundations’ for institutional theory, i.e., the pursuit of causal explanations of institutional dynamics at lower levels of analysis than the field level. The paper examines this topic through language, notably the verbal imagery that is used more or less implicitly to build theory about the relationship between actors and institutions. Verbal imagery includes metaphors and other verbal forms that draw on our tendency to visualize when trying to make sense of unfamiliar or complex phenomena. The textual analysis focuses on work that seeks to integrate emotions into institutional theory. I draw out the verbal imagery that is employed to articulate the (causal) relationships between emotions/individuals and institutions and categorize them into three types of (causal) relationships. These findings serve as a starting point for discussing the verbal imagery that we employ to articulate the ‘micro-foundations’ of institutional theory and for considering alternatives, such as the verbal imagery of water, as a productive direction for developing institutional theory.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventSeventh European Theory Development Workshop. ETDW 2018 - Wien, Austria
Duration: 28 Jun 201829 Jun 2018
Conference number: 7


ConferenceSeventh European Theory Development Workshop. ETDW 2018


  • Institutional theory
  • Micro-foundations
  • Verbal imagery
  • Metaphors

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