Public Opinion as a Source of Deinstitutionalization: a “spiral of Silence” Approach


Deinstitutionalization is the process by which practices are abandoned because they have lost their social approval (Oliver, 1992; Scott, 2001). Given that “all institutions are discursive products” (Phillips, Lawrence, & Hardy, 2004: 638), a deinstitutionalization process relies on discursive struggles between actors who push to abandon a practice and those who try to maintain it (Green, 2004; Greenwood, Suddaby, & Hinings, 2002; Vaara & Tienari, 2008). Studies of deinstitutionalization usually focus on opposing insider-driven and outsider-driven processes (Maguire & Hardy, 2009), depending on whether the disruptive discourse occurs inside or outside the field. While previous literature has acknowledged the functional, political, and social maintenance or challenge of institutional arrangements (Dacin, Goodstein, & Scott, 2002; Oliver, 1992), little has been said about the role of outsiders in this process (Maguire & Hardy, 2009).

One premise of this literature is that institutional fields defend their existing practices by reacting en masse to outsider hostility (Guérard, Bode, & Gustafsson, 2013; Maguire & Hardy, 2009), especially when key insiders have a strong interest in maintaining institutionalized practices (Fiss, Kennedy, & Davis, 2012). However, discursive struggles around institutions usually happen simultaneously both within a field (Oliver, 1992) and outside it, at the society level (Hauser, 1998), with one discourse influencing the other.