The complexity of institutional niches: Credentials and organizational differentiation in a field of U.S. higher education

Craig M. Rawlings*, Michael D. Bourgeois

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper examines the emergence and differentiation of institutional categories - distinctions of kind that are salient to specific arenas of social life - as an organizationally and historically embedded process. We employ the concept of the institutional niche to describe how multiple orderings of key institutional categories come together to form relationally meaningful regimes within organizational fields. Using social network methods for inducing relational macro-structures, we ground this approach in an analysis of institutional differentiation within a single organizational field, exploring one theoretically salient case. Drawing upon archival data sources we model and interpret the differentiation of institutional categories of credentials within U.S. higher education in agriculture - a field with a putatively egalitarian mission - up to World War II. Findings from this analysis suggest that historical exigencies and organizational dynamics constitute a driving force behind the differentiation of institutional categories, and that this process is tied to the maintenance of symbolic boundaries at multiple levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-446
Number of pages36
JournalPoetics
Volume32
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The complexity of institutional niches: Credentials and organizational differentiation in a field of U.S. higher education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this