In Search of Legitimacy: Managerialism and Legitimation in Civil Society Organizations

Michael Meyer, Renate Buber, Anahid Aghamanoukjan

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


In this paper we investigate changes in the legitimating accounts used by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), in the context of spreading managerialism - one of the most powerful institutional practices of our time - in the Third Sector. We first introduce the concepts of legitimacy and legitimating account, before showing how managerialism manifests itself in CSOs and presenting three managerialist accounts used to legitimate such organizations: efficiency and effectiveness (E&E), stakeholder needs and innovation. We then examine empirically how the use of these accounts changed between 1995 and 2008. To do so we analyze quantitatively the contents of a sample of annual reports produced by Austrian CSOs over the stated period, and apply discourse analysis to a smaller group of reports in order to reveal more fine-grained developments. Our results show significant changes; of our chosen accounts, the one most tightly linked with managerialism, E&E, had come to be taken for granted by 2008, whereas the more generic and subtle concepts of stakeholder needs and innovation featured more strongly than in 1995. <br/>Keywords: managerialism; organizational legitimacy; legitimating accounts; annual reports; discourse analysis
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167 - 193
JournalVoluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502023 NPO research

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