A Place to Stay
This dissertation examines the organizational appropriation and deployment of cultural resources and, in particular, cultural capital (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977), i.e., “high status cultural signals used in cultural and social selection” (Lamont & Lareau, 1988: 164), in manners that account for broader social status dynamics and institutional pressures. I conduct three interrelated empirical studies, all situated in the context of the U.S. hotel industry, and particularly, the luxury market segment. Building from archival, interview, and observational data collected from multiple sources, the first study focuses on the industry level, examining sweeping changes in hotels over time (from 1790–2015) and linking them with shifts in broader socio-cultural sentiments; the second study examines how the luxury segment of the industry sought to maintain its high status by appealing to elite guests in the face of such changes; and the third study highlights the organizational level, examining how luxury hotels managed cultural resources to transform the meaning of luxury for guests and signal status in an age of egalitarianism. Taken together, the three studies offer insights on the cultural embeddedness of industries and especially, how macro-level processes (at the industry level) yield dominant cultural codes and, in turn, how micro-level processes (at the organizational level) deploy and contribute to legitimating those codes. My studies strengthen the theoretical connection between research on culture, status and market adaptation by integrating and extending applicable ideas from cultural sociology (DiMaggio, 1987; Hirsch, 1972; Swidler, 1986, 2001) and by illuminating these with empirical evidence to explain when, why, and how processes of cultural entrepreneurship are undertaken to enable change and adaptation to the market and to society.