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The logic of appropriateness


  • Johan P. Olsen
  • James G. March


The logic of appropriateness is a perspective that sees human action as driven by rules of appropriate or exemplary behavior, organized into institutions. Rules are followed because they are seen as natural, rightful, expected, and legitimate. Actors seek to fulfill the obligations encapsulated in a role, an identity, a membership in a political community or group, and the ethos, practices and expectations of its institutions. Embedded in a social collectivity, they do what they see as appropriate for themselves in a specific type of situation. The paper is divided into five parts. First, we sketch the basic ideas of rule-based action. Second, we describe some characteristics of contemporary democratic settings. Third, we attend to the relations between rules and action, the elements of slippage in executing rules. Fourth, we examine the dynamics of rules and standards of appropriateness. And, fifth, we discuss a possible reconciliation of different logics of action, as part of a future research agenda for students of democratic politics and policy making.

Suggested Citation

  • Johan P. Olsen & James G. March, 2004. "The logic of appropriateness," ARENA Working Papers 9, ARENA.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:arenax:p0026

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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Howlett, 2014. "From the ‘old’ to the ‘new’ policy design: design thinking beyond markets and collaborative governance," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 47(3), pages 187-207, September.
    2. Robert McGee, 2010. "Analyzing Insider Trading from the Perspectives of Utilitarian Ethics and Rights Theory," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 91(1), pages 65-82, January.
    3. Frank Schiller & George Prpich, 2014. "Learning to organise risk management in organisations: what future for enterprise risk management?," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(8), pages 999-1017, September.
    4. Högström, Claes & Gustafsson, Anders & Tronvoll, Bård, 2015. "Strategic brand management: Archetypes for managing brands through paradoxes," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 391-404.
    5. McCarter, Matthew W. & Budescu, David V. & Scheffran, Jürgen, 2011. "The give-or-take-some dilemma: An empirical investigation of a hybrid social dilemma," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 116(1), pages 83-95, September.

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    organization theory; neo-institutionalism; democracy;

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