Making a hybrid out of a crisis: historical contingency and the institutional logics of London’s public transport monopoly

James Fowler*, Alex Gillett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Literature seldom admits the importance of historical contingency and politics in the creation of hybrid organisations. Nevertheless, the circumstances of their creation play a pivotal role in the subsequent operation, priorities and success of these prolific organisations. Through a single case study, this paper aims to explore the connection between the multiple and concurrent crises that created London Transport and the subsequent balance of its institutional logics. Design/methodology/approach: This case study uses in-depth data collection from multiple archival and public sources to offer quantitative and qualitative analysis of the priorities, logics and services offered by London Transport before and after its transition from a private to a hybrid organisation. Findings: Providing London’s transport via a quasi-autonomous non-governmental monopoly was justified as being more efficient than competition. However, by applying accounting ratios to the archival records from London Transport, the authors find that there were few decisive efficiencies gained from amalgamation. Instead, the authors argue that the balance of institutional logics within the new, unified organisation showed a political response outwardly addressing market failure but primarily concerned with marginalising democratic control. This reality was obscured behind the rhetoric of rationality and efficiency as politically neutral justifications for creating a public service monopoly. Originality/value: This paper challenges supposedly objective systems for judging the effectiveness of “hybrid” organisations and offers an alternative political and historical perspective of the reasons for their creation. The authors suggest that London Transport’s success in obscuring its enduring market-based institutional logics has wider resonance in the development of municipal capitalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-518
JournalJournal of Management History
Issue number4
Early online date14 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

© Emerald Publishing Limited. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Crisis
  • Hybridity
  • Institutional logics
  • London transport
  • Politics

Cite this