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Socially constituted systems of order emanate from tacit interaction. While they are reflected in an organization’s culture, they do not necessarily align with the organization’s authorised rules and codes of conduct. Such misalignment renders legitimacy in organizations problematic. The paper explores the relation between power and legitimacy by showing how such systems of order recursively establish, and are established by, forms of legitimacy that may not be formalised. Empirically, such forms of legitimacy thwarted a police organization’s attempt to reform. Theoretically, an understanding of organizational change is connected to the relationship between power and legitimacy. The paper provides insights into how power influences the social construction of legitimacy within the context of public organizations.
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