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Max Weber was among the first great social theorists to stress the importance of legitimacy.

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Introduction

Max Weber was among the first great social theorists to stress the importance of legitimacy. In his definitional foundations of the types of social action, he gave particular attention to those forms of action that were guided by a belief in the existence of a legitimate order: a set of "determinable maxims," a model regarded by the actor as "in some way obligatory or exemplary for him" (Weber, 1968: 31). In his own work, Weber applied the concept to the legitimation of power structures, both corporate and governmental. His widely rehearsed typology of administrative systems depends on whether the subordinate actor regards the order as binding because of its traditional nature, the charismatic qualities of its leader, or because it has been legally constituted. ...read more.

Middle

were among the first to call attention to the ways in which organizations seek legitimacy and support by incorporating structures and procedures that match widely accepted cultural models embodying common beliefs and knowledge systems. These and related contributions represent considerable diversity but also reflect a common underlying conception, which has been formulated by Suchman (1995: 574) as follows: "Legitimacy is a generalized perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs and definitions." The normative component, stressed by Weber's discussion of administrative systems, places emphasis on "normative rules that introduce a prescriptive, evaluative, and obligatory dimension into social life" Cognitive elements are the rules that specify what types of actors are allowed to exist, what structural features they exhibit, what procedures they can follow, and what meanings are associated with these actions. ...read more.

Conclusion

As Suchman (1995: 574) noted, legitimacy is a "generalized perception" representing the "reactions of observers to the organization as they see it; thus, legitimacy is possessed objectively, yet created subjectively." Legitimation processes operating on organizations may be considered on several levels: (1) entire organizational populations, (2) individual organizations, or (3) subunits and specialized aspects of organizations. Ecological as well as many institutional approaches focus attention on the legitimation of organizational populations, collections of organizations exhibiting a given structure or form Institutional theory has focused on the movement towards, and maintenance of, isomorphic institutional environments. DiMaggio and Powell (1983) discussed isomorphism based on the assumption that organizations become increasingly similar through institutional forces. Their primary focus is on the movement towards, and the maintenance of, institutional norms through coercive, mimetic, and normative processes. Key to the discussion is the effect of isomorphism on organizational performance. We suggest that isomorphism results in similar organizational performance or outcomes. ...read more.

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