How Cinderella Became a Queen: Theorizing Radical Status Change

Delmestri, Giuseppe and Greenwood, Royston (2016) How Cinderella Became a Queen: Theorizing Radical Status Change. Administrative Science Quarterly, 61 (4). pp. 507-550. ISSN 0001-8392


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Using a case study of the Italian spirit grappa, we examine status recategorization - the vertical extension and reclassification of an entire market category. Grappa was historically a low-status product, but in the 1970s one regional distiller took steps that led to a radical break from its traditional image, so that in just over a decade high-quality grappa became an exemplar of cultured Italian lifestyle and held a market position in the same class as cognac and whisky. We use this context to articulate "theorization by allusion", which occurs through three mechanisms: category detachment-distancing a social object from its existing category; category emulation-presenting that object so that it hints at the practices of a high-status category; and category sublimation-shifting from local, field-specific references to broader, societal-level frames. This novel theorization is particularly appropriate for explaining change from low to high status because it avoids resistance to and contestation of such change (by customers, media, and other sources) as a result of status imperatives, which may be especially strong in mature fields. Unlike prior studies that have examined the status of organizations within a category, ours foregrounds shifts in the status and social meaning of a market category itself.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: institutional change / recategorization / product market status / status elevation / status imperative / category extension / categorical dynamics / Italy
Divisions: Departments > Management > Change Management und Manag. Development
Version of the Document: Accepted for Publication
Depositing User: Giuseppe Delmestri
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2016 16:55
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2020 14:18
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