Discursive legitimation of organizations in agonist online public sphere

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The focus of this thesis is the discursive legitimation of organizations in agonist online public sphere. Theoretically, it draws upon the institutional theory of organizational legitimacy, theories of the public sphere, and the discourse theory of Laclau and Mouffe. The purpose of the study is to bring about new understandings about the construction of organizational legitimacy in the mediated public sphere. The main research problem of this study is: How does the agonist online public sphere function as a discursive arena where the legitimacy of organizations is constructed? The main problem is divided into four different research questions, through which discursive struggle as an antecedent of legitimacy is investigated. The empirical material for the study comprises discourses in three different online materials, i.e. news commenting forums, discussion forums, and Wikipedia. The materials are analyzed with discourse-theoretical and narrative methods. The results of the study show how agonist online public sphere, by allowing fragmented and affective expression, offers a pluralist arena for participation and brings out multivocal discursive struggle where the dominant views on organizations and their roles in society are reproduced, challenged and recreated. The study broadens the understanding of online public sphere as an arena of moral (de)legitimation and legitimacy struggles, as well as of the role of the public as a source of legitimacy. Theoretically, the study contributes to a better understanding of the discursive legitimation of organizations especially by extending the investigation of mediated legitimation to social media, and by bringing forward the concept of agonist online public sphere as a model that helps to articulate the social and political significance of contentious practices of legitimation.
Translated title of the contributionDiscursive legitimation of organizations in agonist online public sphere
Original languageFinnish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Moisander, Johanna, Supervising Professor
  • Hirsto, Heidi, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6695-0
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6696-7
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • legitimation
  • online public sphere
  • agonism
  • discourse theory
  • discursive struggle

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