Walter W. Powell is Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Sociology, Organizational Behavior, Management Science and Engineering, and Communication. He is the Marc and Laura Andreessen Faculty Co-Director of Stanford's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. He has been a member of the board of directors of the Social Science Research Council since 2000, and was an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute from 1999 to 2013. He has been Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, and Lewis A. Coser Visiting Professor at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.
Powell works in the areas of organization theory, economic sociology, and the sociology of science. He is interested in the processes through which knowledge is transferred across organizations, and the role of networks in facilitating or hindering innovation, and institutions in codifying ideas. His current work focuses on the emergence of novel organizational forms. These ideas were developed in a recent book, The Emergence of Organizations and Markets, written with John Padgett, and published by Princeton University Press. The third edition of The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook, co-edited with Patricia Bromley is forthcoming from Stanford University Press.
His 1990 article, “Neither Market Nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organization,” won the 1991 Max Weber prize for best paper in the field of organizations; and “Network Dynamics and Field Evolution: The Growth of Inter-Organizational Collaboration,” with D. White, K. Koput, and J. Owen-Smith (2005), received the 2007 Viviana Zelizer prize for best paper in economic sociology. “Technological Change and the Locus of Innovation: Networks of Learning in Biotechnology,” with K. Koput and L. Smith-Doerr (1996), was recognized by Administrative Science Quarterly as its most influential scholarly publication in 2002. His 1983 paper, “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” with Paul DiMaggio, is the most cited article in the history of the American Sociological Review. Powell is the author or editor of The Culture and Commerce of Book Publishing, with Lewis Coser and Charles Kadushin (Basic Books, 1982), Getting into Print: The Decision-Making Process in Scholarly Publishing (U. of Chicago Press, 1985), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis, with Paul DiMaggio (U. of Chicago Press, 1991), Private Action and the Public Good, with Elisabeth Clemens (Yale U. Press, 1997), and The Nonprofit Sector, with Richard Steinberg (Yale U. Press, 2006).
He received his PhD in Sociology from SUNY – Stony Brook in 1978, and previously taught at Yale, MIT, and the University of Arizona. He has received honorary degrees from Uppsala University, Copenhagen Business School, and the Helsinki School of Economics, and is a foreign member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science.