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“What good is Wall Street?”: Institutional contradiction and the diffusion of the stigma over the finance industry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-402
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Early online date7 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


King's Authors


The concept of organizational stigma has received significant attention in recent years. The theoretical literature suggests that for a stigma to emerge over a category of organizations, a “critical mass” of actors sharing the same beliefs should be reached. Scholars have yet to empirically examine the techniques used to diffuse this negative judgment. This study is aimed at bridging this gap by investigating Goffman’s notion of “stigma-theory”: how do stigmatizing actors rationalize and emotionalize their beliefs to convince their audience? We answer this question by studying the stigma over the finance industry since 2007. After the subprime crisis, a succession of events put the industry under greater scrutiny, and the behaviors and values observed within this field began to be publicly questioned. As an empirical strategy, we collected opinion articles and editorials that specifically targeted the finance industry. Building on rhetorical analysis and other mixed methods of media content analysis, we explain how the stigmatizing rhetoric targets the origins of deviant organizational behaviors in the finance industry, that is, the shareholder value maximization logic. We bridge the gap between rhetorical strategies applied to discredit organizations and ones used to delegitimize institutional logics by drawing a parallel between these two literatures. Taking an abductive approach, we argue that institutional contradiction between field and societal-level logics is sufficient, but not necessary to generate organizational stigma.

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