Institutional Parasites

Jukka Rintamäki, Simon Parker, André Spicer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In this paper, we conceptualize the “institutional parasite” and examine its role in institutional change and maintenance. Institutional parasites are a widespread group of illegitimate actors that undermine the institution their livelihood depends on. Through their illegitimate activities, they may alert “institutional functionaries”: elite institutional actors capable of maintaining and changing the institution. Depending on the functionaries’ reactions, we show there are three potential outcomes: institutional drift, layering, or reform. Through our theorization of the institutional parasite, we point to the role of deviant actors in maintaining institutional arrangements, driving unintended institutional change, and we highlight the ambiguous relationship between institutional change and maintenance: sometimes, maintaining an institution requires changing it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalAcademy of Management Review
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Mar 2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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