Structure and Meaning in Strategic Paradoxes: Exploring Historical Context in the Emergence of Agrifood Standards

Shane Lee Hamilton*, Andrew C. Godley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper uses a historical case study of the emergence of a set of agrifood standards to explore the historical development of strategic paradoxes. The paper demonstrates the value of historical methodologies of “zooming in and out” for understanding the contexts in which paradoxical organizational structures develop over time. We explore the evolution of a significant strategic paradox, showing how changing relations between UK poultry producers and food retailers led to the emergence of a fundamental innovation in agrifood standards. The paper contributes to paradox theory by developing a historically rooted analysis of how context—which we theorize as simultaneously structurally determinative and cognitively malleable—can explain why organizational actors come to “live with” a paradoxical dynamic equilibrium in which dialectical power relations remain embedded.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages36
JournalBusiness History
Early online date5 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024 The Author(s)


  • paradox
  • agrifood
  • Agribusiness
  • historical methods
  • Poultry industry
  • GlobalGAP
  • EurepGAP

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