Authors: Grégoire Croidieu (Emlyon Business School)
Abstract: This paper seeks to understand how institutional persistence unfolds. We study the case of the 1855 Bordeaux wine classification, once a temporary and arbitrary list of wine estates, that has remained unchanged until now and came to define elite wineries and Bordeaux to the world. Underneath the seeming stability of the Bordeaux wine hierarchy were massive social changes and struggles. Most notably, aristocratic landowners were replaced by a growing number of wine merchants as well as bankers and industrialists. These new owners however celebrated rather than teared down this aristocratic legacy by embracing aristocratic paraphernalia, by constructing grandiose châteaux (e.g., castles, the traditional aristocratic home), and by ennobling existing buildings. This remarkable transformation begs questions about how aristocrats as a social group fell, while their status remained, and how seemingly lower status owners got in 1855 without diluting the classification’s prestige. We build upon competing insights from classical sociology, class and status, to conduct a historical ethnography of ownership in Bordeaux. By interrogating what owning an 1855 estate meant and afforded, our analyses reveal how organizational dynamics intersect with social stratification processes to support institutional persistence. Our study reintroduces classic concerns with status and social class to organizational analysis, while theorizing organizations as carriers of elite status.
Host: Miriam Bird (TUM)