The constitution of organizational legitimacy: A narrative perspective

Benjamin D. Golant*, John A A Sillince

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article recognizes a major dichotomy in the study of legitimacy construction at the organizational level. Scholars have either focused on agent-centred explanations of organizational legitimation, which favour its evaluative dimension, or on structural explanations, which highlight the isomorphic pressures imposed on individual organizations in order to become and remain intelligible to stakeholders. By applying a discursive methodology, we propose a new approach for the study of organizational legitimacy construction that incorporates both its evaluative and cognitive dimensions. Drawing on a structurational model of narrative recursivity, inspired by Greimas (1987), we argue that the construction of organizational legitimacy is dependent on both the persuasiveness of organizational storytelling and on the realization of a taken-for-granted narrative structure. We explicate the processes by which legitimacy is narratively constructed through empirical data associated with the founding of an HIV/AIDS organization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1167
Number of pages19
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2007


  • Legitimacy
  • Narrative
  • Social construction
  • Structuration


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