Research Seminars

Social rating: re(fabricating) legitimacy in an emerging organisational field

Speaker: Dominique BESSIRE
Université d'Orléans

12 January 2007 - From 14h00 to 16h00

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Social rating constitutes an organisational field (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983). Organisations
within it are the more in search of legitimacy as it is an emerging field. In this paper, we
analyse the constituents of this field and we highlight the mechanisms through which
organisations fabricate legitimacy. We demonstrate that social rating agencies are at the centre
of the legitimation system which operates in this field. In order to achieve our objectives, we
have conducted a series of interviews and on-site observations with different members, at
different levels and with different functions, (delete: in French social rating agencies).
However, in order to protect confidentiality and to improve our understanding of the
phenomenon, we have adopted a methodology based on ideal types (Weber). The
characteristics of agencies A, B and C which are described in this paper may have been taken
from one or more actual agencies and in this case are systematically stylised, but may also
have never been observed. Our study highlights the tension between subjectivity and
objectivity, between militant and business-driven perspectives and between innovative and
conforming approaches in the fabrication of legitimacy. It finally suggests a dynamic
compromise between the two opposite approaches, in order to make an explicit linkage
between the values and the methodologies that are used in social rating.

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