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The Survival of the Unfittest: Delinquent corporations and the production of organisational legitimacy through symbolic-discursive fit

Listed author(s):
  • Svensson, Peter


    (Department of Business Administration, School of Economics and Management, Lund University)

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    The survival of so called ‘delinquent organisations’ is the topic of this article. A delinquent organisation should here be conveived of as an organisation engaged in activities regarded by the public and stakeholders as harmful, hazardous or even lethal. Examples of delinquent organisations comprise producers of tobacco or warfare material. It has been recognised in the literature on organisations that the creation and maintenance of organisational legitimacy, i.e. the degree of congruence between the organisation’s deeds and the values, norms and expectations in society. This article aims at bringing into the limelight the symbolic-discursive aspects of organisational legitimacy, that is to say the construction of a fit between the text (written and spoken) produced by a particular organisation and the cultural and ideological environment wherein this organisation operates. Drawing upon ideas from discourse theory, the tobacco producer Swedish Match is subjected to a close up study. More specifically, the empirical case selected is that of a lawsuit filed against Swedish Match in 1997 and the related textual responses produced and distributed in public media by the organisation. I present the argument that, in order to construct a symbolic-discursive fit, Swedish Match has to navigate in between two strong ideological poles: a social democratic heritage and an emerging corpus of neo-liberal ideas, two forces that provide both the rhetorical means for and restraint of the construction of organisational legitimacy.

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    Paper provided by Lund University, Institute of Economic Research in its series Working Paper Series with number 2005/5.

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    Length: 30 pages
    Date of creation: 02 May 2005
    Handle: RePEc:hhb:lufewp:2005_005
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