Rhetorical History as Institutional Work

Roy Suddaby, Trevor Israelsen, Francois Bastien, Rohny Saylors, Diego Coraiola

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Rhetorical history has emerged as a useful theoretical construct that bridges the long recognized gap between historical and organizational scholarship. Despite its growing popularity, the precise nature of rhetorical history as a construct, its scope conditions, and its utility in resolving critical issues in historical organizational analysis remains unclear. This paper addresses these issues. We define rhetorical history and contextualize the construct by elaborating its relationship to associated concepts like collective memory, rhetoric, and narrative. We ground the construct by reviewing literature that has applied rhetorical history in both theory and empirical research. Our inductive review identifies four recurring themes in which rhetorical history is used to construct perceptions of; (a) continuity and discontinuity, (b) similarity and difference, (c) winners and losers, and (d) morality and immorality. We conclude with a discussion of how rhetorical history is an essential mechanism of institutional work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-278
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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