A1 Journal article (refereed)
Can institutional theory be refuted, replaced or modified? (2020)

Aksom, H., Zhylinska, O., & Gaidai, T. (2020). Can institutional theory be refuted, replaced or modified?. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 28(1), 135-159. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOA-02-2019-1666

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Aksom, Herman; Zhylinska, Oksana; Gaidai, Tetiana

Journal or series: International Journal of Organizational Analysis

ISSN: 1934-8835

eISSN: 1758-8561

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 28

Issue number: 1

Pages range: 135-159

Publisher: Emerald

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOA-02-2019-1666

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:


This paper aims to demonstrating that the former new institutional theory of isomorphism and decoupling cannot be extended, modified or refuted as it is a closed theory. By analyzing the structure of this former version of institutional theory and its numerous modern competitors (institutional entrepreneurship, institutional work and institutional logics theories) it is argued that these alternative theories demonstrate even less explanatory and predictive power and do not refute or extend their predecessor. The rise of new organizational theories can have no other effect on classic institutional theory than to limit the domain of its applicability. In turn, there are a number of principles and conditions that future theories should meet to be accepted as progressive advancements.
The paper provides a review of relevant organizational and philosophical literature on theory construction and scientific progress in organizational research and offers a set of principles and demands for those new theories that seek to challenge new institutionalism.
The authors show that the former institutional theory satisfies two main criteria that any scientific theory should conform with following it is useful and falsifiable in term of giving explanations and predictions while, at the same time, clearly specifying what can be observed and what cannot; what can happen and what is not likely to occur. Modern institutional theories cannot demonstrate this quality and they do not satisfy these criteria. Moreover, institutional isomorphism theory is a closed theory, which means it cannot be intervened with changes and modifications and all future theories should develop their theoretical propositions for other domains of applications while they should account for all empirical phenomena that institutional theory successfully explains.
Adopting instrumental view on organizational theories allowed reconstructing the logic and trajectory of organizational research evolution and defends its rationality and progressive nature. It is also outlined how existing dominant theory should be treated and how new theories should challenge its limitations and blind spots and which philosophical and methodological criteria should be met.

Keywords: organisational research; organisational theories; institutionalism; instrumentalism; philosophy of science; theory of science; scientific progress

Free keywords: realism; institutional theory; instrumentalism; organizational research; scientific progress; truth, Heisenberg´s closed theories; Bohr's correspondence principle

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

JUFO rating: 1

Last updated on 2021-07-07 at 21:37