Walter W. Powell

Walter W. Powell
Stanford University | SU · Graduate School of Education, Dept. of Sociology, School of Engineering, and Graduate School of Business

PhD, SUNY-Stony Brook

About

162
Publications
186,976
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Introduction
Walter W. Powell is Jacks Family Professor at the Graduate School of Education, Dept. of Sociology, School of Engineering, and Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. He is also faculty co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. The third edition of The Nonprofit Sector is now out from Stanford University Press:https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=30371 Videos about the various chapters are available at:https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/resources/handbook/
Additional affiliations
July 1999 - present
Stanford University
Position
  • Professor (Full)
July 1999 - February 2015
Stanford University
Position
  • Professor (Full)
July 1988 - June 1999
The University of Arizona
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (162)
Article
In this interview, Walter W. Powell and Helmut K. Anheier review the evolution of organizational sociology and institutionalism over the last thirty years, including the formation of new organizational forms such as network organizations. They also touch upon nonprofit and civil society research, and discuss the state of sociology and the social sc...
Chapter
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Over the course of American history, philanthropists have been both praised and pilloried, depicted as redeemers of democracy and a threat to it. Despite the shifting social terrain in which they have operated, philanthropists — and the organizations they create — have grown in number and influence, acting as a catalytic force in the genesis and de...
Book
Full-text available
"The nonprofit form has spread around the world as a unique alternative to markets and governments. This third edition of The Nonprofit Sector provides great insight into this phenomenon and is as exciting and informative as the previous two. With fresh faces and insights, it is a real joy to read."-Joseph Galaskiewicz, University of Arizona "Now...
Chapter
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In this chapter, we examine entrepreneurs who carry ideas, technologies, values, and assumptions between previously unrelated spheres of economic or cultural activity, and in the process, change the existing order of things. We label such individuals amphibious entrepreneurs and explore their characteristics via four case studies. Their stories sug...
Article
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Change is frequently afoot in the nonprofit sector, both in the wider institutional environment in which nonprofits operate and within the organizations themselves. Environmental transformations—funding sources, supply and demand for collective goods, and administrative norms—create the circumstances in which organizations operate. Internally, chan...
Chapter
We analyze how institutional persistence unfolds. Building on an historical analysis of 3,307 bottle labels in the Bordeaux wine community, France, between 1924 and 2005, we find that the persistence of a chateau tradition requires considerable effort at maintenance. Instead of greater compression and taken-for-grantedness, we propose that expansio...
Chapter
Organizational fields are shaped by both the relations that organizations forge and the language they express. The structure and discourse of organizational fields have been studied before, but seldom in combination. We offer a methodological approach that integrates relations and expressions into a comprehensive visualization. By mapping networks...
Article
This book forum reports an outcome of the authors-meet-the-critics session organized for the 2016 American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, which took place coincidentally but appropriately, in San Francisco.
Article
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Today, the Bay Area is home to the most successful knowledge economy in America, while Los Angeles has fallen progressively further behind its neighbor to the north and a number of other American metropolises. Yet, in 1970, experts would have predicted that L.A. would outpace San Francisco in population, income, economic power, and influence. The u...
Chapter
Different strategies exist to exert influence in the context of networked social structures: brokers regulate flows of information; social movements create frames for mobilization; and high-tech clusters form linkages to advance innovation. This paper introduces interstitial communities as a fourth form of networked governance that brings together...
Chapter
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In the first edition of this handbook, Powell and Colyvas (2008) argued that much could be gained by making the microfoundations of institutional theory more explicit. That chapter concluded that the standard macro accounts associated with institutional theory needed an accompanying argument at the micro level. Our new essay represents such a journ...
Chapter
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In recent years, numerous writers have criticized the current state of institutional theory, and organization theory in general (Davis 2010, 2015; Suddaby, Hardy, and Huy, 2011; Greenwood, Hinings, and Whetten, 2014). We have found these hand-wringing discussions somewhat odd, as they routinely focus on papers written back in the late 1970s and ear...
Chapter
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Does extensive private philanthropy by the super-rich undermine the democratic processes of state and civil society? In this paper, we review the history of the relationship between philanthropy, state, and civil society to explore how philanthropists came to be regarded as legitimate providers of public services and what implications this shift ma...
Article
The webpages of organizations are both a form of representation and a type of narrative. They entertain, persuade, express a point of view, and provide a means to organize collective action and economic exchange. Increasingly, webpages are the primary point of access between an organization and its environment. An organization's online presence off...
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Crowd-based organizational models are purported to be more open and participatory than traditional organizational forms. But are they novel inventions or permutations of forms that have existed previously? This essay examines the wide array of innovations pursued under the umbrella label of crowd phenomena and asks whether they have altered traditi...
Chapter
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This chapter advances a recursive view of organizations as both sites of important social outcomes, such as inequality, persistence, change, as well as embeddedness, and drivers of them. Society and people configure organizations, and organizations shape and reproduce society and the lives of people. We illuminate the mechanisms through which these...
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The new institutionalism in sociology and organizational research is best represented as an extended family of scholars that share a broadly defined theoretical orientation. The multiple lines of thought in this tradition have a common interest in the relationship between social structure and organizations. Within this frame, researchers differ in...
Article
Organizational boundaries, the demarcation between an organizational entity and its external environment, have undergone considerable remaking in recent years. Long thought to be relatively stable, boundaries were once redrawn only to gain more leverage over external factors or increase scale. But boundaries have become much more fluid and permeabl...
Article
EDITOR'S SUMMARYA novel approach to evaluating the impact of nonprofit organizations is proposed, combining social network and linguistic analysis. The authors examined data from nonprofit organizations' websites and site hyperlinks to other organizations. They identified 369 sites of organizations that measure social impact and captured inbound an...
Article
Full-text available
The emergence of novelty, especially of new categories of people and organizations, is undertheorized in the social sciences. Some social worlds are more hospitable to novel introductions or exogenous perturbations than others. Explaining this relative " poisedness " is essential to understanding when and why new organizational forms appear, persis...
Article
Full-text available
EDITOR'S SUMMARY A novel approach to evaluating the impact of nonprofit organizations is proposed, combining social network and linguistic analysis. The authors examined data from nonprofit organizations' websites and site hyperlinks to other organizations. They identified 369 sites of organizations that measure social impact and captured inbound a...
Book
Full-text available
This book tackles the puzzle of speciation - - where do new ideas, practices, organizational forms, and people come from? The social sciences are strong with regards to models of selection and equilibrium, but have failed to understand the emergence of what we choose or who we are. Building on the concept of autocatalysis from biochemistry work on...
Chapter
This concluding chapter reflects on the evolution of a funded project which would come to form the publication of this volume. In doing so, the chapter returns to the main themes and ideas drawn from the rest of the book in exploring further insights into the dynamics of multiple networks. The previous chapters have shown how behavior from one real...
Chapter
This chapter elaborates on a theory of the co-evolution of social networks—a synthesis of social science and biochemistry—and shows its empirical significance for the study of human organizations. First, the chapter describes the problem of organizational novelty in the context of multiple social networks. Second, the core dynamic motor of autocata...
Chapter
This chapter analyzes the early years of the first generation of biotechnology companies. The setting is the 1970s, a time when landmark scientific discoveries in molecular biology triggered all manner of perturbations in university science, pharmaceutical research, and venture finance. The result was the creation of a new form—a science-based comm...
Chapter
This chapter follows the trajectory of the life sciences into the present day, focusing on the larger question of industry or field evolution. In a field characterized by “gales of creative destruction,” the chapter considers how some types of organizations have managed to retain a position of centrality even as others exit and many newcomers arriv...
Article
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We study the emergence of organizational forms, focusing on two mechanisms—reconfiguration and transposition—that distinguish the founding models of the first 26 biotechnology companies, all created in the industry's first decade, from 1972 to 1981. We analyze rich archival data using hierarchical cluster analysis, revealing four organizational var...
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The pervasive spread of rationalizing trends in society, such as the growing influence of managerial sciences and increasing emphases on accountability and transparency, has created significant changes in organizations’ external environments. As a result, there is growing pressure on organizations to align their policies and practices, and to confo...
Article
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As the members of an organizational field adopt similar practices, considerable variation in enactment can ensue. Field-level theories, however, do not yet explain how and why organizations vary in their use of standard practices. To tackle this issue, we focus on the infiltration of managerial practices into a sector traditionally motivated by nor...
Article
Collective invention occurs when competing organizations share knowledge about the design and development of new technologies. Such exchange and circulation of ideas and practices among communities of inventors was relatively common in the nineteenth century, most notably in geographically localized industrial districts. This collective system of i...
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Most research on the emergence of high-tech clusters samples on successful cases, and works backwards to trace a narrative, often highlighting the role of specific individuals or groups. Our approach begins with the formation of a new field - biotechnology in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and follows the field to the present. We emphasize the seq...
Article
Hiring employees with advanced education, training, and experience has been a prevalent human resource practice in dynamic science-based industries, and a growing body of literature has demonstrated the importance of scientists in such fields. Little research has attempted to distinguish the functional from the symbolic roles of scientists, however...
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This paper analyzes how professional values and practices influence the character of nonprofit organizations, with data from a random sample of 501 (c)(3) operating charities in the San Francisco Bay Area collected between 2003 and 2004. Expanded professionalism in the nonprofit world involves not only paid, full-time careers and credentialed exper...
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Contemporary life is replete with all manner of rankings, metrics, and benchmarks (Power, 1997; Espeland & Stevens, 1998). From J.D. Power evaluations of cars to Zagat restaurant reviews to US News and World Report ratings of colleges and universities, modern life seems to be deep in the grip of assessment and evaluation. In the early decades of th...
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Industrial districts and regional clusters depend on the networks that arise from reciprocal linkages among co-located organizations, while physical proximity among firms can alter the nature of information and resource flows through networks. We consider the joint effects of geographic propinquity and network position on organizational innovation...
Chapter
Was macht Organisationen so ähnlich? Wir behaupten, dass nicht mehr der marktförmige Wettbewerb der Motor von Rationalisierung und Bürokratisierung ist, sondern der Staat und die Professionen. Sobald ein Set von Organisationen als ein Feld entsteht, kommt es zu einem Paradox: Rationale Akteure gestalten durch ihre Versuche, die Organisationen zu wa...
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Networks and institutions Research on institutions and networks has proceeded on largely separate trajectories over the past few decades. The former is more associated with work in organizational and political sociology, and the latter serves as the wellspring of research in economic sociology. To be sure, a number of loose linkages exist between t...
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The growing salience of intellectual property (IP) rights has reconfigured U.S. science, shifting it from the formerly separate realms of university and commercial science to an increasingly interconnected field of public and proprietary science. We assess both the magnitude and consequences of these developments, first describing the primary tools...
Article
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Public research systems in the United States and Europe are often compared with respect to their divergent levels of involvement in the private economy. The U.S. research system, with its mix of both public and private institutions, has long played a significant role in conducting research that contributes to technological development and industria...
Article
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American universities are purported to excel at technology transfer. This assumption, however, masks important features of American innovation. Attempts to emulate the US example must recognize the heterogeneity of its industries and institutions of higher education. Stanford University and the biomedical cluster in Boston, Massachusetts, illustrat...
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We examine the origins, acceptance, and spread of academic entrepreneurship in the biomedical field at Stanford, a university that championed efforts at translating basic science into commercial application. With multiple data sources from 1970 to 2000, we analyze how entrepreneurship became institutionalized, stressing the distinction between fact...
Article
Full-text available
The growing salience of intellectual property (IP) rights has recon-figured U.S. science, shifting it from the formerly separate realms of university and commercial science to an increasingly interconnected field of public and proprietary science. We assess both the magnitude and consequences of these developments, first describing the primary tool...
Article
We analyze the process of institutionalization, arguing that it is the outcome of the self-reinforcing feedback dynamics of heightened legitimacy and deeper taken-for-grantedness, using novel techniques to document and trace this change over a 30-year period. Our focus is the remaking of the boundaries between public and private science, an institu...
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Bay area, the two most prominent biotech clusters in the United States, are compared. Their analysis rests on three presumptions: high-tech clusters in particular require both the presence of networks and spatial density, interorganizational networks serve the dual purposes of being locus of innovation and the underlying support structure that host...
Article
It is, of course, both a privilege and a challenge to have one's work attended to in the thorough and thoughtful manner exemplified by Professors Suchman and Edelman's and Professor Sutton's essays. The New Institutionalism in Organizarional Analysis has been subject of many review symposia—in journals of accounting, business, political science, an...
Book
The second edition of The Nonprofit Sector provides a novel, comprehensive, cross-disciplinary perspective on nonprofit organizations and their role and function in society. This new, updated edition keeps pace with industry trends and advances as well as with the changing interests and needs of students, practitioners, and researchers. As before,...
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The system of higher education is undergoing heightened evaluation and reform in a number of advanced industrial nations. There are pressures for greater productivity and efficiency, demands for more responsiveness and enhanced application, as well as reforms in the financing of universities. We believe it is important to move beyond traditional po...
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We develop and test, using McFadden's discrete choice statistical modeling applied to network dynamics, four alternative logics of attachment - - accumulative advantage, homophily, follow-the-trend, and multiconnectivity - - to account for the development of interorganizational collaboration in the field of biotechnology. The commercial field of th...
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We define the knowledge economy as production and services based on knowledge-intensive activities that contribute to an accelerated pace of technical and scientific advance, as well as rapid obsolescence. The key component of a knowledge economy is a greater reliance on intellectual capabilities than on physical inputs or natural resources. We pro...
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Drawing on interviews with more than 80 scientists on two university campuses, we create a typology that offers insights into how transformations in the nature and locus of life science innovation influence academic careers and work practices. Our analyses suggest that a strong outcome of increased academic concern with research commercialization i...
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Social action is situated in fields that are simultaneously composed of interpersonal ties and relations among organizations, which are both usefully characterized as social networks. We introduce a novel approach to distinguishing different network macro-structures in terms of cohesive subsets and their overlaps. We develop a vocabulary that relat...
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We contend that two important, nonrelational, features of formal interorganizational networks-geographic propinquity and organizational form-fundamentally alter the flow of information through a network. Within regional economies, contractual linkages among physically proximate organizations represent relatively transparent channels for information...
Article
Full-text available
W e contend that two important, nonrelational, features of formal interorganizational networks—geographic propinquity and organizational form—fundamentally alter the flow of information through a network. Within regional economies, contractual linkages among physically proximate organizations represent relatively transparent channels for informatio...
Article
Sur la base d'une enquête empirique auprès de chercheurs de deux campus universitaires, les auteurs proposent de rendre compte de l'influence des évolutions des sciences de la vie sur les carrières et les pratiques académiques. La préoccupation croissante des universitaires à l'égard de la commercialisation de la recherche est à l'origine de lignes...
Article
In this chapter, we make the argument that science-based firms in the life sciences are expected to actively expand the volume and scope of collaborations, and broaden the kinds of partners with whom they collaborate, as they grow larger, older, and become successful. We base our arguments on a general process of organizational learning in which or...
Book
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This major two-volume collection presents a comprehensive overview of the scholarly literature exploring the emergence, functioning and forms of networks, focusing on their role in the economy. The collection draws from a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds to combine key writings that have defined the field with more recent contributions in em...
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We extend debates about the sources of university capabilities at research commercialization. Drawing upon quantitative data for a panel of 89 research-intensive US universities and interview data from two academic licensing offices, we model the relationship between technology transfer experience, embeddedness in biotechnology industry networks, b...
Article
this paper have been fully explored, but selected applications to formal organizations may provide useful examples. We begin with some of the early work on PSC Theory by Friedkin, then move to a test of PSC hypotheses by Moody and White (2003), and end by considering some of the unpublished findings of Powell et al (2002) on the biotech industry