Quotation Leixnering, Stephan, Meyer, Renate, Doralt, Peter. 2022. The past as prologue: Purpose dynamics in the history of the Aktiengesellschaft. Research in the Sociology of Organizations. 78, 97-120.




Institutions are collective responses to collective concerns, with the underlying link between concern and response being the purpose of the institution. With this conceptual lens, we analyze the history of the Aktiengesellschaft (AG), which emerged in Austria and Germany around 1800. While any analysis of the organizational features of the form would have diagnosed marked stability over the past two centuries, our historical study reveals significant shifts of the AG’s purpose and meaning: from a vehicle in the service of the public interest, shareholders, and employees to a persona with legitimate selfinterests and the will to survive. We suggest to regard such purpose drifts as distinct variant of institutional change. In addition, we conclude that the AG’s essentially political actorhood institutionalizes the ever fragile and delicate quest for a balance between the different legitimate interests on whose behalf a corporation acts (including those of the self). Such a view, we argue, can offer a future for the corporation as organizational form.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Research in the Sociology of Organizations
WU Journalrating 2009 A
WU-Journal-Rating new STRAT-B, WH-B
Language English
Title The past as prologue: Purpose dynamics in the history of the Aktiengesellschaft
Volume 78,
Year 2022
Page from 97
Page to 120
Reviewed? Y
URL https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/S0733-558X20220000078006/full/html
DOI https://doi.org/doi:10.1108/S0733-558X20220000078006
Open Access N


Public Interest-Orientation: Neue Organisationsformen
Leixnering, Stephan (Details)
Meyer, Renate (Details)
Doralt, Peter (Details)
Research Institute for Urban Management and Governance FI (Details)
Urban Management and Governance (Meyer) (Details)
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