Practices of design, although integral to contemporary capitalism, are too often overlooked by economic sociologists. To remedy this, I study a novel technology of organizational adornment: theming. Case data drawn from the global casino industry reveal that theming has diffused worldwide as standard business practice. Close examination, however, reveals divergence across jurisdictions in terms of the meanings that themes convey. These patterns derive from neither successful marketing (i.e., customizing design for consumers) nor symbolic isomorphism (i.e., signaling deference to global norms). In line with the markets-as-politics paradigm, I analyze design as a field-specific conception of control. In this view, themes signal to particular constituencies that one is a certain kind of organization (and not another). The makeup of these signals and audiences-that is, what counts as socially legitimate action-will depend on the political field in which a firm is embedded. Results demonstrate the explanatory power of markets-as-politics and also extend this theory by elucidating the performative mechanisms that bridge economic and political domains.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science