Struggles over legitimacy in global organizational restructuring: A rhetorical perspective on legitimation strategies and dynamics in a shutdown case

Niina Erkama*, Eero Vaara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


Critical organization scholars have focused increasing attention on industrial and organizational restructurings such as shutdown decisions. However, little is known about the rhetorical strategies used to legitimate or resist plant closures in organizational negotiations. In this article, we draw from New Rhetoric to analyze rhetorical struggles, strategies and dynamics in unfolding organizational negotiations. We focus on the shutdown of the bus body unit of the Sweden-based Volvo Bus Corporation in Finland. We distinguish five types of rhetorical legitimation strategies and dynamics. These include the three classical dynamics of logos (rational arguments), pathos (emotional moral arguments), and ethos (authority-based arguments), but also autopoiesis (autopoietic narratives), and cosmos (cosmological constructions). Our analysis contributes to previous studies on organizational restructuring by providing a more nuanced understanding of how contemporary industrial closures are legitimated and resisted in organizational negotiations. This study also increases theoretical understanding of the role of rhetoric in legitimation more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-839
Number of pages27
JournalOrganization studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes



  • Legitimacy
  • Legitimation
  • Resistance
  • Restructuring
  • Rhetoric
  • Shutdown

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