The Role of Collective Action in the Pace of Deinstitutionalization: the Case of Asbestos

Abstract : This paper attempts to understand why the deinstitutionalisation of asbestos in France has taken so long, despite the fact industrials have known it to be a lethal substance since 1906. The use of asbestos for such a prolonged period has caused thousands of deaths and still continues to kill today. Asbestos is a natural fibre that was already known to the Ancient Greeks and popularized in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution. By the mid 20th century, asbestos, considered as “a magic mineral” could be found almost everywhere, in concrete, roofing, pipe insulation, clothes and even in cigarettes. Its decline began in the 1980s and its use was eventually banned in 1997 after a series of court cases. As a theoretical contribution, we explain the role of the actions of individuals in collectively overthrowing an institutional order. Most actions are not in vain, and may contribute to a slight change that will eventually lead to the collapse of an institution. Deinstitutionalisation is viewed as a cumulative process, not as a disruption essentially provoked by a jolt. Furthermore, we insist on the issue of the aim of individuals when they are engaged in an institutional work. Disruptive or defensive work has unintended consequences that can lead to the destruction or the consolidation of a practice taken for granted. Thus, we shed light on differences between the aim of actors and the impact of their actions on an institutional level. Finally, our study relies on a process method. It allows us to contribute to Dorado’s model of institutional change (2005). To do that, we compare different periods and we develop the relationship between profiles of institutional change and the solidity of the resulting institutional arrangements on a long term basis.
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Conference papers
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https://hal-upec-upem.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01133839
Contributor : Hélène Peton <>
Submitted on : Friday, March 20, 2015 - 2:51:39 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, July 18, 2019 - 2:50:02 PM

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Hélène Peton, Antoine Blanc. The Role of Collective Action in the Pace of Deinstitutionalization: the Case of Asbestos. LAEMOS, 2014, La Havane, Cuba. ⟨hal-01133839⟩

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