Power, rationality and legitimacy in public organizations

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Journal Article

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Gordon, R., Kornberger, M., & Clegg, Stewart, R. (2009). Power, rationality and legitimacy in public organizations. Public administration, 87(1), 15-34.

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2009 HERDC submission. FoR code: 1605

© Copyright 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


In this paper we propose answers to the research question: how does power shape the construction of legitimacy in the context of public organizations? We suggest that while organizational structures of dominancy will be embedded, not all structures of dominancy align with those that are normatively presented as legitimate and authoritative. Such situations make the creation and sustenance of legitimacy problematic for organizational action. This paper advances our understanding of the relation between power, rationality and legitimacy by showing how structures of domination recursively constitute, and are constituted by, legitimacy that may not be authoritative. We show, empirically, how these relations prevented a police organization from reforming by breaking the recursive patterns of domination and legitimization. Theoretically, we argue that understanding organizational change must be connected to issues of power and legitimacy.

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