Published in l'Année Sociologique, a journal founded by Durkheim
Our paper studies collective action between firms from the perspective of devices. To do so, we use the concepts of meta-organizations and partial organizations that were developed by Ahrne and Brunsson (2008, 2010). We conduct a case study of the oil and gas sector and show that while literature has expected these devices to retreat due to globalization and weakening of States and collective negotiations, they actually remain a powerful mean of collective action between firms. Notably, firms widely use these devices to deal with CSR and sustainable development issues, in relation with all the different stakeholders. From a strategic standpoint, these collective action devices allow firms to manage reputational effects and weak signals coming from the environment, as well as to neutralize conflicts with stakeholders. From the institutional standpoint, the invention of new organizational forms since the 1960s – business thematic and multi-stakeholder meta-organizations – occurred in a dynamics of institutional complementarity. Indeed, these devices rely on one another and complete each other, therefore allowing firms to develop a broad range of collective strategies.