How do actors continue to contribute to the reproduction of extant institutional arrangements, even after they have become morally perturbed by these arrangements? Through ethnographic research in eleven Pentecostal churches in urban Java, we found that when certain church practices morally perturbed church employees and volunteers, they evoked moral emotions of guilt and anger that triggered institutional instability. However, organizational leaders exerted fear- and respect-eliciting systemic power that made these actors discontinue their disrupting activities. Suppressing the impetus for institutional disruption and change, systemic power engendered actors’ feelings of helplessness. Bringing back power into neo-institutionalism, we investigate the boundary conditions to the mobilizing potential of moral emotions. Rather than exiting the field, morally perturbed actors engaged in reconciling activities, enabling them to shift the anchor of their emotional investment. In our case, the shift took place from idealized institutional arrangements to a more spiritual meaning system. We argue that anchor relocation is vital to the sustained reproduction of institutional arrangements of which actors morally disapprove.

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Keywords emotional investment, ethnography, institutional reproduction, moral perturbation, systemic power
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Journal Organization Studies
Wijaya, H.R. (Hendra R.), & Heugens, P.P.M.A.R. (2017). Give Me a Hallelujah! Amen! Institutional reproduction in the presence of moral perturbation and the dynamics of emotional investment. Organization Studies. doi:10.1177/0170840617736931