IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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


  • Svensson, Peter

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


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Svensson, Peter, 2005. "The Survival of the Unfittest: Delinquent corporations and the production of organisational legitimacy through symbolic-discursive fit," Working Paper Series 2005/5, Lund University, Institute of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhb:lufewp:2005_005

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kumar, Nirmalya & Scheer, Lisa & Kotler, Philip, 2000. "From market driven to market driving," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 129-142, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Organisational legitimacy; corporate reputation; delinquent corporation; Swedish Match; tobacco industry;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hhb:lufewp:2005_005. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Elsbeth Andersson) or (Stefan Carlstein). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.