Lifeworlds of Organizations and Entrepreneurship: Perspectives on Institutional Dynamics and "Becoming"


May 2023

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The starting point for my reflections is the insight that both institutions and human beings are always situated in a lifeworld. Lifeworld means everything that exists around us insofar as it is directly, immediately experienced in everyday life. A lifeworld could imprint on individuals’ mindsets, mark institutional and cultural legacies, and evolve along with the interactions between actors and institutions. My dissertation work has approached the overarching questions of how organizational strategies come to be deeply rooted in culture and institutions as well as how institutional actors (i.e., entrepreneurs in my study) refashion institutions. In the opening chapter, I apply an imprinting lens to examine the effect of macro-institutional events on CEO decisionmaking. Specifically, I focus on a lifeworld marked by famine (i.e., China’s Great Famine of 1959- 61) and examine how such resource-scarcity experience influences CEOs’ resource allocation in firm innovation. In the second chapter, I take a historical embeddedness view of institutions to explain the contemporary widespread firm corruption in various regions of Africa by tracing the issue back to the injustice legacies left by the lifeworld of the slave trade (c.1400s-1900s). In the third chapter, I take a processual view of institutions to explore the situated entrepreneurial dynamics in refreshing regional institutional outlooks. Two representative case studies (i.e., New England Concord Circle during the19th century and Texas oil and gas industry in the 20th century) demonstrate a hermeneutical cycle between actors and structures, and show how this cycle’s catalyst lies in the technology-culture nexus. My fourth and final chapter evolves from the third, focusing on the individuals/collectives’ subjective experience of time within a given lifeworld. I explore the interactions between entrepreneurs’ temporal orientation and the institutions’ temporal ambience and identify a four-part taxonomy of institutional work based on the basic possibilities of imaginative novelty (The Wizard of Oz), imaginative replication (Castle in the Air), nostalgic replication (Golden Age), or nostalgic novelty (Seeking Roots). Correspondingly, I offer representative cases that demonstrate the movements of regional institutional trajectory over time on a temporal compass of entrepreneurs and their institutions. Overall, in this dissertation work, I apply interdisciplinary approachesfrom sociology, history, and philosophy to bear on social issues, including resource-scarcity experience/firm innovation, injustice legacy/firm corruption, generational units/institutional reconstruction, and temporality/institutional image. I hope my dissertation inspires dialogues with other scholars who may ponder, challenge, and resonate with my work.



Business Administration, Management